Saturday, May 28, 2011


Today I went to a "Alexander Technique and Meditation" workshop. Something very unique and since I didn't have much experience with either of those 2 methods I was intrigued and well surprised. Not just by the outcome for myself but also by the realisation how close this can be related to parenting.

We started off with some easy led meditation and afterwards a girl asked what you do if you suddenly feel your nose itching or your foot being uncomfortable. I thought that you would obviously try to sort such things out quickly to go on with your meditation without being distracted. After all that's what it's all about. Or is it ?
The answer was - it isn't. Especially Zen meditation is rather about being in the moment. Feeling the moment. Feeling the situation, the surroundings but also your body and your soul TOGETHER. An itchy nose or a slight twist in the body can rather be seen as a challenge. What does that feel like? Can I actually stand it? Will it go away or will it get worse? Can other thoughts distract me from that and make me forget about it? This is being with yourself in THAT moment. And more. It is about dealing with also the unpleasant situations. We tend to invite and deeply enjoy the good thoughts, the fun, the joy. At the same time we try to avoid difficult situations, find the easiest way out and do all we can to bring ourselves back to the easy going place. Unfortunately this is a one way track. We don't learn how to deal with conflicts, bad or even sad moments. We find it more and more difficult to cope. And we concentrate on the good stuff which we can't often enjoy as much because the disability to handle the bad stuff is floating above us more and more. You can see where this is going.

It doesn't mean that you shouldn't scratch your nose straight away when it bothers you or that you should watch that mosquito bite you just for the experience of dealing with it for hours or days afterwards. It just means to try and find the middle. Don't always go the easiest way. Don't always just run away from difficult situations or those that could possibly be some.

And this was when I quickly made a loop to the most present topic in my head nowadays - parenting. We try to teach our children to cope with frustration from a very early age. When they want to move in a way they can't yet (rolling over and back again, crawling, walking etc...), when a toy is stuck under the cupboard, when out playing with other kids and conflicts arise... The list goes on. And with the above explanation you see how IMPORTANT it is to really let this happen.
Still a lot of parents say "I can't let my child cry, I can't see him struggle, he will learn to deal with frustration or conflicts early enough." Well and this is where I slowly shake my head and say: "No he won't." Because of that spiral, that one way road. He will rather either learn to rely on the parent to solve the problem for him or he will learn how to leave it, run away, go on with something else and start to ignore conflicts.

I do not say to implement Zen meditation on your child. I'm saying: Give them the chance to struggle, the opportunity to express anger and the possibility of a self found solution. Not all the time and not under pressure. Just so they can experiences the down side as well as the fun side to not just find their middle in life but also find it joyful and satisfying. And after all - to not let them sit in a meditation workshop at the age of 30 and suddenly realise what they have not known, missed out and are now at the very beginning of learning.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


When I was in school I was told what Lenin used to say: "Practise, practise and practise!" And when I couldn't always find the motivation I am now also lacking the patience to practise over and over again. If something is just not happening - I'm done with it. Therefore I was astonished to watch this little scene just before.

We were having lunch and without thinking much I unscrewed a drinking carton to give Leander something to drink. He reached his little arm - not for the drink but for the cap. I gave it to him and he again reached out his arm to place this cap on top of the opening in the carton. When it fell on the floor over and over again I placed himself on the floor with the cap and the carton and was sure the interest in this game would be over in now time (remembering my latest blog post). But this time I was wrong.

For several minutes he was highly concentrated and occupied with his self set task. He managed to place the cap on the hole but is not able to screw it yet. The cap would then always slip out of his fingertips into his hands which made the whole thing more difficult. And what I saw then really struck me.

He put the cap on the floor only to then pick it up carefully with his fingertips. And then he placed it back on top of the carton and so on.

And when I thought he might be getting frustrated because he was not able to screw it, so when the cap did stay on but was easily lifted it looked to me as if he was checking if it is fixated. Instead I realised that every time he just lifted the cap again to start his game over and over.

Now that was a lot of cap and carton talk. But who would have thought that this might be such a thrilling toy?
And again we learned - we do not need to teach anything. Not how to hold things, how to screw things or anything. And we do certainly not need to tell them how to do things better or different. When he put the cap down to grab it differently... that was one of those Aha-moments we want to miss as little as our children want to miss their learning experiences.

sorry for the terrible pictures I just could pull out my phone quickly otherwise I would have distracted Leander from his play.

Monday, May 2, 2011


It has been said often. But looking around toy shops, parents' shopping bags before Christmas or Easter (which seems to be becoming another Christmas madness) it looks like it can't be repeated over and over again: Children do not need bright and shiny, several senses stimulating, challenging and encouraging toys. It's the simple things they enjoy the most.

Careful reading about Emmi Pikler and Magda Gerber and their approach on toys and children's entertainment we were attempted not to overwhelm our son with oh so many toys. I believe so far we did quite well. But still, there are the temptations in the toy shops, the own childhood memories and the thought of giving your child all he needs to develop well. It is a struggle after all and here is a summary of our journey so far.

Before Leander could actually grab and here I mean purposefully grab - seeing something, wanting it and grabbing it - there was a time where I was impatient. I had some soft toys ready for him and with his first teeth approaching I wanted him to be able to grab a carrot or a wooden ring to bite and chew on. As soon as he was able to all the soft toys ended up in his playpen until a friend reminded me of what Pikler had said "not more than 4 toys at a time". And it made sense because the playpen seemed to be overloaded and the little man was not playing with any of them. So every now and then I removed some of the toys in there, replaced them by some others etc...

When our son became rather active and moved around a bit more we learned what really interested him - the paper my husband left lying on the floor nearby, the plastic bag with cough drops that slipped out of my pocket... such things way more interesting than those colourful knitted dices and sewed animals and puppets my mom had made herself.

Obviously - with the crawling, sitting and standing up EVERYTHING in reach that belonged to us (Laptop, mobile phone, books, coffee cups... you name it) was much more interesting than the toy car or the wooden mobile he was so keen on the week before. In a charity shop I bought him stacking cups and a stacking tower. After all I wanted him to have something and it was cheap as well. Well he LOVES the stacking cups and would love the tower but that just challenges his frustration skills (which is worth a whole new blog post).
In the playgroup I discovered that he loves playing with balls and wooden cars. I bought him one each for his birthday. Now that I am writing this I seem to remember that wooden car and realise I have not seen it in a week. It also seems that half of Vienna heard that Leander loves balls so he's got a bucket full of them now. They are so small though that it takes him 10 minutes for them to end up under the furniture and a minute later he won't miss them at all.

One day the hoover came out while Leander was around (usually we hoovered when one of us was out with him because he was so scared of the crawling noisy monster). Well now he seemed highly interested in getting to know that monster and was entertained by it (or entertained it) for a whole day. When we bought a new hoover and he kept playing with it so happily we gave him the tube of the old monster as a toy. That was interesting. For a bit.
A friend of my husband gave him a tube for cleaning building sites which makes funny noises when you blow in. A brilliant toy and you should have seen the look on Leander's face when he brought that home with him. He couldn't care less about me as long as this tube was around. Now since he's got it in the living room obviously declared as a toy it is - yes - just not interesting at all.

Cables have been the hit for EVER. So my husband looked for an old one we don't need anymore. It was received well and is now... well actually. Where is it??

Today Leander was playing with 6 empty beer bottles in their crate. Taking them out, putting them into the cupboard and back. My first thought was to take our plastic cycling bottles, fill an empty beer crate with them and give him that to play instead of the old glass bottles. But somehow I got the feeling that as soon as I give him the crate for the purpose of playing he will find... well... anything else more interesting.

It's not just that a child doesn't really need toys as produced and sold by people who are interested in making money and not in our children's happiness and daily fun. It's that our children see for themselves what is fun to be with, fun to blow in, to pull on, to stack on top of each other and to fill from one item into another. Of course we can't let them play with anything in the house (that's why he is still interested in our phones and laptops). But we can realise that he is the one to choose and what's interesting today might not even be blinked at tomorrow. And that again is the excitement of it all.