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Saturday, February 27, 2016

I Think I May Be Pro Yelling

I have a good friend with two kids under the age of five and a husband who is away a lot for work. She reads a parenting blog that I also enjoy, but unfortunately the woman who writes the blog has led her to conclude that if she ever "loses it" in front of her kids, she is "abusing them" and "ruining them for life." Good parents don't "lose it."

By "losing it" she means yelling. I keep seeing this on Facebook as well, "Yelling is abuse," people write. Never yell at your kids or you are the cause of murder and war.

I don't have the answer yet (more reading/thinking to do) but here is what I know so far and can share with you that gives me the inkling that this cannot be true.

Humans don't usually yell with intent to abuse, but rather because they don't feel heard.

When yelling-humans are listened to and feel heard, they generally stop yelling. And they feel grateful and connected to the person who listened to them.

When triggered-humans don't feel heard, they are capable of doing dangerous things in order to be heard. Their yelling is a wonderful and helpful social signal for us to stop and listen.

When a human doesn't feel heard, but has been raised not to yell, he doesn't not "lose it."  He just loses it in a non-yelling way, often by calmly and vindictively engaging in various manipulative or passive aggressive behaviors.

Or he loses it by causing violence to himself, the violence of stuffing down his feelings and needs with ice cream, television, video games, sex, workaholism, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, etc.

In many ways, yelling is actually more honest than not yelling. This reminds me of Foucault's Discipline and Punish. The physical punishments of history were--in many ways--simply more honest and open than the sneaky ways we punish/express power now.

For parents, yelling is not nearly as damaging to children as serenely and kindly rewarding and punishing them--controlling them. I wrote an entire book about this, so I wont go into it here, but using force against anyone is The Most Harmful Thing. Force can be done with violence, manipulation, or a quiet and serene expressions of power.

On that note: Maybe it all depends on intent and interpretation. The facial expression of disgust is supposedly the most disconnecting/destructive for relationships. I had a very loud yelling-mother who none-the-less made me feel very loved. I had a father who never yelled, but who I always felt despised me--I can still vividly remember the look of pure disgust on his face when he caught me doing something that displeased him. But I imagine there are people who could say the opposite.

Are we serving our children when we teach them that yelling-people are bad-people "abusing" them?

Most children yell. What do children decide about themselves by hearing that yelling is abusive and people who yell are bad?

Oh wait--is yelling only abusive when an adult does it?

That doesn't work for me. Non-contradiction axiom.

And people who teach their children to that yelling-adults are bad--but yelling-children are okay--are saying, "I am better than you. I am in control. You are not. You will be as good as me one day. But right now you are Bad." I don't think it's possible to excuse a child's yelling, but not an adult's, without implying the child is bad.

What if children were taught that yelling-people are just people with overwhelming unmet needs and need to be heard?

(With the caveat to know the difference between a yeller who needs to be heard and a yeller who has crossed the threshold of safety and may harm you and therefore you should get away.)

On that note: People who have lost their shit can be very dangerous. I do not think that the "benevolent authority" parents do their children a service by falsely giving them the message that they are powerless and incapable of making someone lose their shit.

Children can make people lose their shit. It may be a good thing for children to experience this at home where it's safe, so they know not to push strangers--or Grandpa--too far.

I have read, like these people crying abuse, the literature that states that those who have bosses who yell are much more likely to have high blood pressure and therefore (if high blood pressure is an actual cause and not just correlated) suffer from heart attacks.

So yelling raises blood pressure, but does it raise blood pressure because of how you were raised--to believe that yelling is abuse, and you are being abused, and this person is bad?

If you were raised to believe that a yelling person needs your compassion and listening and mirroring, if you felt like yelling-people weren't actually that scary because you had the skills to connect with them and help them through... would yelling still raise your blood pressure? Or would you feel like a competent person? There is a good chance my son will have a friend or a relative or a wife who one day yells at him--and I want him to feel competent at staying connected to that person and helping them through. This is what NVC teaches.

Another interesting thing I know is that the "not yelling" rule is an upperclass rule. Upperclass folks do not yell. They are in power and to yell--to imply people aren't hearing them--would lower their status, so they are taught as children to never ever ever ever yell. (This is conjecture. We don't actually know why upper class people tend to teach their children to not yell, but we do know that trend-wise, teaching children not to yell is an upper class thing.)

Middle class parents tend to follow this dictate as they are always interested in doing whatever upper class people do.

Lower class people yell. They also (often) beat their kids. And for those who consider this normal, it is not damaging. Studies have been done on this. I am not advocating beating children, but it is important to know that abuse is a judgement word, an interpretation. Many people believe they have been abused when people yell at them, other people just think this is normal human behavior and really don't worry about it so much. Same with hitting.

The never-yelling families tend to be not only upper and middle class, but also from WASP backgrounds. WASPs were the original never-yellers, and considered themselves superior to the nasty ethnic folks who yelled all the time.

To be anti-yelling is to be racist! Just kidding.

I took care of a lot of upper class children who basically melted down if anyone ever yelled, who literally couldn't handle someone yelling, who had no idea what to do if a fight broke out, etc. I don't think it is helpful for children to be raised to be this helpless. But then, I was raised lower class and that is a rather lower class position. (Lower class parents want their children to be "tough." Though I am not raising Anders to be "tough" around yelling-people, but rather, to feel competent at connecting with them.)

As adults, I see the children from the yelling-is-bad families blanketly write people off for the rest of time if they ever have an emotional outburst. These adults don't realize that this may be class prejudice and/or racism. That person who yells may have no idea that yelling is as inappropriate as you think it is.

Yelling is just one form of "losing it". Everyone "loses it" at some point in their lives, and most will "lose it" fairly often. The experience of being overcome with unmet needs--this is a common human experience. I watch newborn babies get overwhelmed and lose it. Young children do the same. Adults are no different. As adults, we might know how to "put off" our emotional release until we are home alone, but we all "lose it." It is not weird. It is not something that only happens to bad people. It is not even a rare occurrence. I do not think parents do their children a service by failing to introduce them to and teach them about this aspect of reality.

"Losing it" will never be socialized away. So what is a good way to lose it?

I would rather Anders yell, so that I can know there is a problem, listen, and help, than secretly stuff his face with a pint of ice cream.

As a parent, what if losing it in front of your kids is... wonderful? They are going to lose their shit. They probably do often. How you respond to them when they lose it, is exactly how you should teach them to respond to you when you lose it.

How you lose it is the model for how they will lose it when they get older. If you "lose it" into a bottle of wine or a video game ... that is actually more disconnecting than yelling. At least the yeller wants to talk to you.

In my personal experience, the NVC (listening to the yeller) response is actually far more effective than shaming them. It is the proper response to children who are flipping out ... and adults. No contradiction.

I have read that anger is a mask for tears. People yelling actually need to cry. But they don't want to appear weak or admit their powerlessness or they "don't cry" so they yell instead. Maybe if crying were more socially acceptable, there would be less yelling?

I remember in Marshall Rosenberg's book Non Violent Communication, he yelled at his kids about his needs, "I am feeling overwhelmed! I see mess and I want to see clean! I am so tired I can barely deal!" or something along those lines. I remember thinking, "If one is going to yell, that is how to do it properly."

So... I am leaning on the side of being yelling-accepting. But more research is required.

And to be clear: I don't think parents should start yelling at their kids all the time; I just don't think it's abuse. I don't think it's a tragedy. I don't think it damages children for life. I think the parent who yelled should tell her child she was feeling overwhelmed and could really use a hug.

But, many people wrote to me after I published this piece, there are yellers who seem to be yelling for power and control of the other person rather than from emotional upset. There are people who seem to be yelling to harm others! What about them?

That's exactly what NVC teaches – boundaries. We can listen to and empathize with a yeller without being controlled by him/her. When someone is yelling, it is never about you. It is always about them, etc. Yelling has no power over you, if you don't give it power over you.

I think that most of the time, the person who sees the yeller as wanting to control them is misreading the situation. If Anders wants me to buy him a toy, and I say, "No," he may be upset and yell. If I listen, empathize, mirror, and hug him, he usually is totally fine with not having the toy. It may have appeared as if he was yelling to manipulate me into buying him the toy, but what he was really needing was empathy.

Really.

I have seen this work with myself as well. I can be very upset about something that my husband did or didn't do, and after he listens to me and empathizes with me, he doesn't need to DO anything else. The empathy, the listening, that was what I needed. It's quite incredible to experience and quite beautiful. I absolutely love what NVC has taught us!

When you condemn something, when you hate it with all of your being, when people who do X are categorically super-bad, it's because you have used force against yourself to not engage in this behavior that you have desperately wanted to engage in. This was one of my epiphanies. I had already read about this in various psyc books, but I didn't truly understand it until one day I was shopping in Beverly Hills and became obsessed with how terribly everyone else was dressed. I sat down on a bench and people watched and berated everyone who passed in my head. "Schleppers!" I thought. "You should all be ashamed! You disgust me, look at yourselves!" Then I became fascinated with my own hatred of everyone, and it hit me: I forced myself to "look presentable" at all times, even when I was tired, even when I didn't feel like. I loathed spending an hour getting ready, resented it, but felt I had to look nice. I thought good people look presentable. I had even started to hate going to parties because it required an hour in front of the mirror! In that moment (about 5 years ago) I gave myself permission to be a total schlepper if I didn't feel like dressing up. I became a classic Californian, wearing my yoga pants and flip flops--in Beverly Hills even! After about two years of basically looking terrible all the time, I started to enjoy dressing up again. But now it's different. Now I dress up sometimes, when I want to, and it's fun. I actually love a chance to get dressed up and go to an event! The rest of the time I don't dress up. And that's okay.

My point is: The people condemning yelling ... really really really want to yell. And they can't. Because that would make them bad. And that kills them. If they can't, you should't be allowed to either! And if you do, you are bad!

As much as I think yelling is not a tragedy and should not be treated as such, as much as I think losing it with people is better than losing it into ice cream, it should also be noted that the idealization of the never-yeller is also based in reality, but we have confused the cause with the effect!

In our brains we categorize, look for patterns and trends. Then we generalize. Successful people and good self-care and communication skills are correlated. People with good self-care and communication skills tend to not resort to yelling very often. Perhaps they appear to us as wealthier or perhaps just happier. Either way, our brains are always seeking to learn from those who have what we want e.g. I want to be more like that person! He seems so happy and successful! I want to follow the example of those successful people! (This is probably the same reason why I was interested in dressing "presentably." I had noted the difference between how my lower class people presented themselves and how the upper classes presented themselves and decided to adopt the behavior of the class I wanted to join.)

Not-yelling (often) is the result of having good self-care and communication skills, not the cause.

Which means if you find yourself yelling often, most likely there are some things you want to look into. Either better self-care is required so more you have more of your needs met or better communication or emotional skills are required. People successful at getting their needs met won't "lose it" often.

I think people who have learned the beautiful and valuable art of communicating in peaceful and empathetic ways to get their needs met are admirable. They are heroes. But heroes are the exception, not the rule. And it is important not to mix the cause with the effect.

There are many horrible communicators out there who do not yell. There are people who say all the right things with derision and scorn in their voices. People who remain calm at all times – except for that facial tick. People who stonewall and think they are superior for it.

Many people who don't yell are not yelling because they have fantastic communication skills. They are not yelling because to yell would make them "bad." They don't yell and write the person who upset them off. They don't yell and play video games for five hours straight until they forget about what happened.

It's important, when communicating our ideals to the people around us, that we communicate causes not effect. We must admire the hard work and fortitude of those who earn great wealth – not the wealth itself as it could have been gotten in less-than-ideal ways. We must admire people with great communication skills, not people who "don't yell" as if that is the single thing required for being a good communicator.

Great communication skills + the self-esteem to assert ones needs + good boundaries and self-awareness + a strong connection with loved ones = people who rarely find the need to yell for all the right reasons.

These heroic and admirable people are easy to recognize because they don't have a problem with people who yell – they have empathy for them. Other people's emotions don't "control" them, so they don't fear them. They are comfortable with themselves, so they don't need other people to be like them.

Naturally anyone ranting about people who yell being abusive ... is not a good communicator, not empathetic, not in touch with his own emotions, and is not yelling for all the wrong reasons.

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Reader Asks About Infant Sleeping

I was recently asked: "I'm curious on when Anders was an infant and it was bedtime and he was crying how you responded. I go and comfort her and my husband gets frustrated and wants her to cry it out. How did you make it through this phase?"

My answer: Think about what you are trying to communicate to your little alien. He is telling you, "I feel this awful thing! It feels terrible! I don't like it! Pain! Pain! Pain!" If you were to say that to your husband, what would you like him to do? You certainly don't want him to shut the door and abandon you in that moment. But you also would most likely not feel seen or heard if he were to distract you by grabbing you, shaking you, and shouting in your ear (as is advised in Happiest Baby on the Block). It is certainly possible to distract you from your feelings, but this is not advisable. (If you haven't read my book, please do so!) The proper response, I believe, when we encounter a sad person is just to be with them while they are sad. When I am sad, I don't need my husband to fix it or distract me or judge me or ignore me. I just need him to give me a shoulder to cry on. It is no different with children. I like to let them know what they are feeling so they know the words, "You're tired" or "You're sad" or "You don't feel good" can help them have the words for their feelings later, but in the mean time, just be with her, listen, empathize, hold her hand.

I believe this is the method from Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect. I never abandoned Anders when he was sad--"crying it out" is brutal on both the baby and the parents. But I also didn't hold him when he was crying or rock him or swaddle him or do anything that would "distract" him from his discomfort. I was simply with him, loving him, and trying to support him, sometimes with my hand on his back, often cuddled up to him. (He never had a crib; he had a Montessori floor bed, so I could always cuddle up to him.)

I also liked the book Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems

I did other things too, when he was an infant, like at night I never turned on the lights. Anders knew by the time he was three days old that night time was dark. I never turned on a light in his room at night nor did I use night lights either. I allowed the house to get dark naturally in the evenings as well. Natural light gets us in tune with our natural rhythms. Very hard NOT to go to sleep when you watch the sunset and then experience darkness. (A side benefit of this is that Anders has never been afraid of the dark.)

But also Anders slept with us from the age of 1 1/2 to 2. I hated having him in the other room. I woke up all night needing to check on him. Having him in our room enabled me to sleep much more peacefully. And I just loved sleeping with him. 

Then when he was around 2, my husband's work schedule changed so that his hours were not compatible with mine. Sleep was too precious for me to be woken up by his alarm in the morning, so for a while my husband, my son, and I all had our own room. From 2 to 2 1/2 my son slept in his own room simply because he wanted to. When we went to the farm he would sleep with me sometimes and other times he would try to sleep in his playhouse outside! He actually fell asleep in there many times. (I always brought him inside though, too many bugs to sleep outside all night long.)

Then with all the moving and traveling from 2 1/2 to now (4 1/2) my son has just felt more comfortable sleeping with me most of the time, so it has been that way for a while. However, his new bed is almost done (a bunk bed) and he is very excited to sleep in it when it is done. 

Also, it should be noted that I nursed my son to sleep until he was 2 1//2, and then one day I told him I didn't want to do that anymore, and he said, "Okay." And that was it. It was similar when he was about eight months old, one morning I told him I was not into him waking me up at 5am anymore, and I needed him go back to sleep. He just did. Never woke me up again (at 5am anyway). It was as if he had understood me perfectly. And then when he was 3, and I told him I was not interested in getting him water in the night anymore, he also just understood and adapted and started getting his own water.

What I am trying to express--in this very hasty post--is that situations and needs are ever-evolving. You get to do things one way and then another way. Other parenting experts are going to fill you with fear about habits and consistency. I have never found this to be *that* necessary. The only habit you need to be in is meeting each other's needs and being in touch with those needs. Babies DO get into routines and come to expect certain things, but only to a certain extent. It takes three days to baby-step your way out of one habit and into a new one. So it ended up, for me, being not really worth worrying about.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Health Note - Fermented Turmeric Cures Eczema!

My husband has had eczema since I met him. It improved a lot when he switched from pasteurized dairy to raw, but it didn't go away entirely. It was maintainable as long as he didn't cheat and put tallow lotion on every day (tallow lotion was an improvement over regular lotions full of plant oils and chemicals).

A month ago I read a book on ginger because I make naturally fermented ginger soda and beers and wanted to learn more about it. The book had a paragraph about ginger's cousin, turmeric, and mentioned tonics made from turmeric cure eczema. We have turmeric growing wild all over our property, so Tom picked some and I made a "turmeric bug." I dipped a cotton round in it and put it all over the right half of Tom's face. The improvement was so clear after just two days that I started putting it on his whole face twice a day. He had a massive shedding of old skin and his skin now looks amazing. I don't know if this will cure his eczema or be part of a radically improved maintenance program, but for any of you suffering from eczema, try the following:

Turmeric Bug
Buy some fresh, raw turmeric.
Peel it.
Chop it into nice little 1/8" cubes.
Put 1 tsp of those cubes in a pint sized glass jar with a tight fitting lid.
Put the rest of the little cubes in a glass storage container in the fridge.
Add 1 tsp of regular white sugar (at my house we call this "bacteria food") to the pint sized jar.
Fill the pint sized jar with high quality (non-cholorinated) water all the way to the top leaving only about 1" of space for air.
Seal the pint sized jar and put it in a window to ferment.
Every day, add another teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of little turmeric cubes.
After three to five days you should see little bubbles in your jar and bacteria should respond when you feed it sugar with little soda-like bubbles.
As soon as it is active it ready!

You will need to keep feeding it to keep it alive, but you can be pretty lazy about it as bacteria are so hearty. Feeding it every three days should be fine.

Would love to hear if this helps other people!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Notes on Anders's "Education" age 3 2/3 and 4 1/3

At  3 2/3

Reading: Anders came and sat on my bed one evening with his Hooked on Phonics reading book and said, "Mom, let's do this." And we moved from practicing letter sounds to sounding out 3-letter-words. He can definitely read--not well, but he can sound out easy words successfully. No coercion on my part whatsoever, just available materials and an available and interested tutor (me). And of course he also watches me read a great deal, and I often talk about what I am currently reading or learning. I now read to him at night from kid's books with very few pictures, like the Little House books and Where the Red Fern Grows. He loves this, as do I.

Math: We hit a wall in math. He raced through the first three Kumon levels, loving his new counting ability (he can count to 100). But as soon as it was time to write the numbers he didn't want to do his Kumon anymore. So now we are taking a break and focusing on developing those skills he needs for writing to be easy and pleasurable--he is doing the first Kumon maze workbook, and I am inviting him to paint or color with me every day. He usually says "No," as he has never cared about coloring or painting. He does like the mazes though and does many of these every day. For now, I consider this his math.

Social Skills: He still chooses not to share most of the time, yet his interactions with kids seem successful. He is well liked and makes friends wherever we go, often with children older than him, though he has been known to "help take care of" younger children at the Kids Gym as well. Kids who have been taught that "good" children share do get upset with him for not sharing, but usually they figure out a way to work with him after I explain to them that Anders only knows how to trade. Some of them get extremely happy that they don't have to share their toys either and become quite possessive, but this doesn't last long; the trading starts rather quickly. Anders is very outgoing. He was talking to his dental hygienist about swimming and he ended up inviting her over to his house to swim. He tends to see himself as powerful--he likes to pay the workers and thank them for their work. At restaurants he orders for himself and has learned how to be loud/assertive enough to get the attention of waiters with "excuse me Ma'am." If they ignore him--as they do! It's crazy how often children just don't exist to people! He will now walk across the restaurant to get their attention. From most people with whom he interacts I hear that he is charming and bright; many comment that he seems to think he is a ten-year-old.

Eating: He is easy when it comes to meals, there is always something he is happy to eat, and he seems to be laid back about it most of the time. Sometimes he suddenly needs to go out for Indian food (he likes the saag paneer), but most often he becomes very passionate about going out for sushi. He orders the gravlax sushi or the salmon sushi, sliced avocado on the side. He has stuck to his healthy teeth diet with incredible dedication for months. He does not attempt to ever eat sugar, even when it is placed right in front of him or offered to him at banks, or hair salons, or birthday parties, even when all the other kids are eating in.

Baths: Anders loves taking his bath every night before bed. If he doesn't want to take one that is usually fine with me. If he doesn't want to take one, but he is dirty, I ask him to take a quick one and this is almost always fine with him.

Potty Training: Anders no longer wears diapers during the day and rarely has accidents. He does wear a diaper at night. He is not interested in not wearing diapers at night as he does not want to wake up to go pee. He is an extremely sound sleeper, almost impossible to wake, it may be a physical thing that he knows he cannot do or he may have decided a diaper is simply more convenient at night. I am not sure.

At 4 1/3

*We do a little math and reading every day, unless he doesn't want to, which happens maybe once a month. I try to have no real goals except to enjoy doing it with him. Sometimes I find that I am not enjoying it, so we will skip doing it that day. If ever he is not having fun, it is because the work has gotten either too hard or too easy. I am good at noticing this now and either skipping ahead or spending time in review to make sure whatever we do is interesting for him.

Reading: He is half-way through first grade in Hooked-on-Phonics. I thought he needed some review, but he didn't want to review the program he had already done, so I got Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, also phonics, and now we do one lesson in there each day in addition to one page in Hooked-on-Phonics. He loves 100 Easy Lessons and calls the book his friend and even slept with it the other night. I asked him if he wanted to stop Hooked on Phonics and just do 100 Easy but he said "No," so we continue to do both. We don't do either program exactly as it is written, like I said before I don't hesitate to speed up or slow down according to his needs. He doesn't need as much repetition as 100 Easy Lessons thinks he does, possibly because a focused and interested person learns faster. With Hooked On Phonics, his favorite part is learning new words. I add any words I think they missed in certain sound categories, including words some people think are "bad." (As if there is such a thing!) We use the internet often in definitions, for scythe not only did he get to see pictures of what one looks like, we watched videos of how to use one properly! My own inner child was envious in that moment! I also share with him sound-origins of words, and he loves this. He is very interested in languages, partly because he is learning Spanish so the usefulness is clear, but also partly because he sees me doing my German workbook.

I read him Aesop's Fables and then a book of Scottish fairy tales. He is very clear on reality, but even so, after I read him a story about a giant that picked a castle up and moved it, he confirmed with me the next day that this was actually not possible. After each story we talk about what the story was really about, what the author was actually trying to say with the story. To continue with our unit on "magical stories" I also have books on: Irish fairy tales, Viking myths, German fairy tales, Greek Myths, and Biblical stories. Will get some Eastern ones as well but don't have them yet. Though he is happy to read them, he doesn't seem to care about fairy tales very much. He did not choose another fairy tale book for his next book, but two non-fiction books, one on machines and one on air planes. After those he opted for The Swiss Family Robinson. He loves this book so far and does not seem bothered at all by the archaic language. This book made him interested in whales, so we watched a very interesting documentary on whales and then another on orcas.

Math: We focused on his writing skills for a while, lots of painting and mazes, and now he is back to loving his Kumon math. He is dying to start addition and is always asking me addition problems, like "Mom, what's 10 and 10." He did the Kahn Academy things that were at his level, but their addition program is terrible! Kumon starts with 1 + 1 and then 1 + 2, which makes sense to me. Kahn starts with everything that adds up to 5. Anders understands that Kumon doesn't start addition until he can finish learning to write his numbers well so he is practicing this with dedication.

Social Skills: He is still very outgoing. He shares more now than he used to. He is very easy to get along with as long as his needs are being met too. He is happiest when I am building things out of Legos with him. He is very interested in power dynamics--policemen and governments interest him a lot. That his friends here at the farm are so poor is interesting for him. He wishes they had more toys for him to play with. His favorite games are hide and seek, tag, memory, and pretending to fish in his tree house. He spends a lot of time outside doing whatever the grown ups are doing. He helps James in the kitchen, helps the workers with their shoveling and wheelbarrowing, helps Herman trim trees, helps Papa make compost, helps Mama make bacteria sodas. He is emotionally aware. Each day at lunch we read one manner from the book Manly Manners and talk about whether we like it or not. Thus far Anders has liked all the manners except for the "ladies first" thing. He prefers being first.

He has no issue whatsoever playing with girls, nor does he associate pink or dolls with the female gender (and that would be especially hard here in Nicaragua where men and boys wear all shades of pink). He did come home from a playdate with a schooled child once saying "eww girls," but, not being repeated, that passed from his memory after about a week.

He is completely comfortable initiating play with older kids and socializing with adults. He is comfortable walking into a restaurant on his own, sitting down, and ordering all by himself. He was very socially successful at the spring break camps he attended in Los Angeles, and made a lot of new friends out of kids his age, older kids, and adults. He didn't have any problems lining up or doing what he was told all day.

Eating: He loves rice and beans, fish, steak, chicken, milk, cheese, sea snacks seaweed in onion flavor, mulberries, golden raisins, watermelon, apples, grapes, and pesto sauce anything. He loves going out for meals, especially if I find ice cream somewhere that is up to our standards. It is harder here in Nicaragua to feed him that it was in LA. He gets bored of having the same old thing and then doesn't eat much. This wouldn't be a problem except that a hungry Anders can be a very unpleasant Anders.

Hygiene: He loves baths, but will shower if there isn't one--if I request it. He has never showered on his own just to be clean. He loves to swim in his large plastic pool with his friends.

Potty Training: He still wears a diaper at night and is uninterested in changing that if it means getting up to pee at night, but he says he is working on holding his pee all night long to make his bladder bigger.

Media: He loves Ted Ed videos, especially those about the human body, Kahn Academy early math videos, animal and space documentaries, and any show about construction. Other kids talk about cartoons, and he told me he wanted to watch them. I told him about what I have read about television and what it does to our brains, but that just like any drug, if we don't do it large quantities, we will probably be okay. So we decided that on full moons we would watch a cartoon movie. On the last full moon (our first one) I showed him previews for Disney's Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, and Ponyo. He chose Ponyo, but the movie has disappeared from the web. It's not on iTunes or Amazon--though you can get a hard copy DVD, that is not what I was after. So we watched Sleeping Beauty. That movie terrified me when I was his age, but he didn't seem scared at all, I think because he is so clear about what is real and what is not real. At his age I genuinely believed in fairies and magic and dragons and there was no grownup telling me otherwise. When it was over he told me that he liked it a lot. We talked about what kind of ideals the movie was selling to us and I told him the ancient viking true-story that Sleeping Beauty is based on. He has not mentioned Sleeping Beauty again. But we will see!

Self-Control: He developed a horrible habit of picking off his scabs. We talked about this and I told him how concerned I was, but he did not seem able to stop. Then we watched some YouTube videos about skin and healing, and he quit his habit. It only took him a matter of days. Like when he did no-sugar-at-all for three months to help his teeth, his self-control blew me away. Today he still struggles with not scratching bug bites, but he does not pick off scabs.

Sometimes when he does his work he looks like a regular school kid. But most of the time he is far more energetic than a child who would be considered ready for school. Granted, he is only 4, but I often wonder if he were in school how he would do due to the sheer amount of energy he has, the lack of stillness. All through school teachers accused me of being hyperactive and often when I work with Anders I wonder if he wouldn't be accused that as well.

Other educational things: when we are in Los Angeles Anders does gymnastics and drum lessons and when we went in March he did two weeks of theater camp and a week of gymnastics camp. Here in Nicaragua he does a painting class when we go to the city and I am hoping to get a dance teacher to come to the farm. These are not that random.

Notes:

The best sports, from a physical health perspective are: dance, gymnastics, swimming, some form of martial art, and yoga. These are whole body, balanced sports, unlike for example tennis or golf that imbalance your body. Not if they are done competitively though.

I don't like competitive sports--ever--as they tend to lead to injuries. My highest value is health and part of health is exercise. Exercise should always be in service of our health, and not something that damages us. Competitive sports make exercise about winning and war, about sacrificing your body for the sake of wining or for the team, rather than exercise as something we do because of how it feels to move our bodies and be strong, rather than leisure and fun.

Not done to excess, I imagine no sport would imbalance your body. (Though I still wouldn't put a child into tennis, golf, baseball, basketball or the like before 8-10 years old and only then if they had a very strong core.) But that being said--why? Why not choose the sport that is the very best for your body?

Another sport I think is important is shooting/hunting. Not only is this a valuable skill, it exercises our eyes. This is crucial in today's close-up world. Kids who spent a week or two on hunting trips with their families every year will never wear glasses.

Another thing I consider is the sheer reality of body-creation and attractiveness. Kids who do a lot of sports tend to end up with the body of that sport. One of my girlfriends was a competitive swimmer in high school and hates the shoulders it gave her. I also have friends who hate their shoulders because of volleyball and gymnastics as well. Men tend to like big shoulders, but these sports will make them unbalanced, giving them an unattractive "triangle" body.

Anders is very sporty as a personality, so I imagine he will play some team sports one day and that is fine, but in the mean time I hope to offer him a solid basis in sports that help him develop a truly strong, healthy, and beautiful body.

AGE 4 - A Day in the Life
*We have no real schedule and travel often, but we tend to get into rhythms. This was our rhythm from 3.75-4.25. Ish.

8am wake, cuddle, talk about our day, dress, go to breakfast
9-930 eat
930-10: practice math
10-12 plays, lots of imaginary conversations
12-1 mom plays with him or he "helps" mom
1pm-2pm lunch
2-5pm play with friends or errands with mom or cooking project with mom or class or playing alone
530pm dinner
630pm bath/ plays
7pm brush teeth get read for bed
730 in bed, practice reading
8pm mom reads to him
830pm lights out and we talk and cuddle and talk about our day

9pm sleep