4 Ways To Calm A Baby Dragon

Our morning started out a little rough today. My youngest came into my room this morning before I was even out of bed and asked for a hard boiled egg. I told him they were all gone. He said, “I already took one.” I said, “You didn’t try to crack it open did you?” He said, “Yes. It’s all over the table and chair.” So before I even had my morning coffee, I had to wipe up a slimy egg mess. I didn’t react,I just wiped it up. He had even tried to wipe it himself with a towel, which I sort of appreciated, but it really wasn’t helpful.

We put that mess behind us and somehow became distracted looking at toy dragons on Amazon together and lost track of time. He was becoming over hungry and overstimulated from looking at my computer screen and I could tell it was going to be a downhill slide. When he starts to unravel he becomes like a fierce, fire-breathing baby dragon. I put some food in front of him to hopefully stop his emotional spiral.

He ate breakfast and then came into my bedroom very upset and dysregulated. He needed to calm his little body. For some reason I decided to sit in a meditation pose and quieted my own body first. He was still angry and started crawling under my bed. I started tapping and he yelled, “Stop moving!” I went back to my still meditation pose. I took a deep breath, and in my mind I said, “Breathe in love”. As I exhaled a deep breath out, I said to myself, “Breathe out stress.” After a few minutes I started to do some yoga poses and then ended in a child’s pose. I was feeling calm and relaxed, even with a baby dragon under my bed.

Photo by Jaymantri on Pexels.com

After just a few minutes my baby dragon slowly came out from under the bed. I stayed in my child’s pose as he grabbed pillows from my bed and laid them on top of me. After he piled 6 pillows on and around my body he climbed on top of me too. I now understand how pressure and weight can be calming, not to mention the darkness from being buried under the pillows. I could feel his small, warm hand touch mine. I grabbed it and held on.

His anger had completely disappeared in a matter of minutes. He wasn’t a baby dragon anymore. He was a happy little boy again. He asked, “Want to play?” I said, ” Sure.” So I had him lay down and put the pillows on top of him with some added pressure from my body. When he said stop, I stopped. He emerged from the pile of pillows and they scattered around us. We snuggled up in the dragon nest and just laid there together for a while breathing in this calm, quiet moment of connection.

My son is very sensitive, like myself. We take in all the commotion around us and seem to be hyper-aware of the energy of others. This little experiment was a great demonstration of the law of attraction. When you feel calm and loving your child will attract towards you with the same feelings. Your child needs you to be present and hold space for them when they are struggling. This will help them feel safe and regulate.

When you are disconnected, stressed, and not present, your child will feel the same. When he is in a state of dysregulation and then feels your stress on top of it, even if you are not aware of it, he will go into fight or flight. So, it’s really pretty simple. If you can change your energy level to a calm, positive, present state you can change your outcome to the same.

Four Steps To Calm Your BABY Dragon:

  1. BE Quiet
  2. BE STILL
  3. BE PRESENT
  4. Breathe in love

I was reading a story this afternoon with my son. It was called What Makes You Happy? It talked about all kinds of silly things that might make a kid happy. I asked my son, “What makes YOU happy?” I was shocked by his wise answer. I thought he was going to tell me riding his bike or watching his favorite show. His profound answer for a 5 year-old was, “Getting love.” Kids don’t want to make our lives hard, they just want love.

~Do Better & Shine

Little Pieces Of Joy

I used to think I was the most patient person in the world, until I had children. Maybe you are lucky and you have an easy child who listens to your every word and follows your every direction. Well, most children are not like that, especially mine. I guess you can’t consider yourself patient until you are really put to the test. Quarantine adds a whole new level, especially when we have just completed week five.

It’s been a rough week. I have a teenager who thinks he can stay up all hours of the night now. He isn’t required to be up at any certain time for Distance Learning, so his evenings are when he connects with friends and has his fun. He talks on the phone for hours on end with his headphones stuck to his ears. Friday morning he startled me out of a deep sleep by slamming the refrigerator door a bit too hard. I was not happy when I stumbled into the kitchen to find him making a mug cake in the microwave at 2 am. I gave him a glare, shook my head and went back to bed.

It took me two hours to finally fall back to sleep since I was tossing and turning in utter frustration of why he would want to stay up so late. Then as luck would have it my five year-old wakes at up at 4:30 am ready for the day to begin. I knew it was going to take a lot of work for me to survive the day. I do not do well when I don’t get enough sleep.

With everyone at home all the time there is a lot of clashing energies. Frustrations seem to build quickly. I am trying hard to keep the meltdowns to a minimum, but they still seem to happen daily. If I am not on top of my game things can spiral downward very quickly and when you get past the point of no return, it is never pretty and takes even longer to recover from the madness.

I’ve let go of a lot of expectations. The house is a mess. Kids are stressed. My husband is out of town. I can’t do it all and I am trying to be alright with that. The basement floor is covered in legos and I just have to walk away. I don’t have the strength to worry about that right now. I am taking care of myself first by writing this blog, even when there are a million other things I could be doing. My nights are for myself. I will do yoga, take a bath, read, and try to learn something new.

Today was long since I am still recovering from lack of sleep from the day before. I am beginning to get my youngest ready for bed. I gave him a bath. He still won’t let me wash his hair, but I was flexible and let it go. I brought him a warm towel and jammies from the dryer which I have never done before in my life. He loved it! He brushed his teeth after taking his time and doing it all by himself. I thought I was in the home stretch, ready to head down to bed and then he asked, “Can I have a snack?” Of course I had to say yes, in fear he might starve to death overnight, so I gave him a banana.

I thought a banana would be a quick, simple snack, and then we could be on our way to bed. When I sat down next to him at the table he quickly jumped up and went to the drawer to get a butter knife. At this point I was too tired to tell him to put it back. He peeled his banana and then began to cut it into slices. I watched patiently without saying a word. He didn’t stop there though, he then proceeded to cut each slice into tinier pieces until he had a mound of little banana pieces on his plate. After this intricate cutting work he began to slowly eat the pieces with his fork.

I just sat and watched him in amazement. He was so present in what he was doing. He actually ate the whole banana pile, which was amazing in itself for such a picky eater. After he took his last bite he looked at me proudly with a big smile on his face and said, “I was practicing my cutting!”

I could have stopped him and told him to put the knife back. I could have yelled at him for making a mess on the table and wasting time. I could have just said no. Tonight I decided to let him be in charge, maybe it was just pure exhaustion, I’m not sure, but I let him take the lead and it took a little longer, but added a spark of joy to his night. After this fun and exciting snack he happily went to bed.

Sometimes it’s the little wins that make everything seem ok. Sometimes we need to let go of the control and let our kids just be. It’s ok to let them stay up late in this unprecedented time. It’s ok for them to make mug cakes (maybe not at 2 am). It’s ok if they cut their banana into as many tiny pieces as they like.

We all need to find the little things that bring us joy right now. Not everyone will choose the same thing, but we all have something that brings us joy. Make a list and then carve out as many moments as possible throughout your day to bring the sparks on your list to life. It can be as simple as cutting a banana. It will make all the difference.

Do Better & Shine

Quarantine Birthdays

My daughter was lucky. She turned 15 on March 3rd, before our concern for COVID-19 hit. My sons were not quite as lucky, they both had birthdays that will go down in history. Their birthdays were April 1st and April 6th. Quarantine birthdays. It’s crazy how birthdays only one month apart can feel like a completely different lifetime.

For my daughter’s birthday we were able to sneak away for the day for some mother-daughter time. We went to Caribou first, which is always a great way to start the day. Then we went to the mall and just spent hours leisurely walking from store to store, enjoying our time together. We arrived when the mall opened in the morning and the day flew by quickly. When we realized it was already late afternoon we made our way to a small Russian restaurant.

My daughter was adopted from Russia and chose to celebrate her birthday with Russian food, which I thought was a great idea. We enjoyed being adventurous and trying all sorts of new foods. We had an amazing day together, just the two of us enjoying some much needed time girl time and getting out of the house.

Fast forward from the beginning of March to the beginning of April. These next two birthdays for my sons felt like no other. They had no choice about inviting friends, dining out, or going to fun places. We have been on quarantine for three weeks now and we are all craving a little more excitement, but we decided to go ahead and celebrate the quarantine birthdays anyway.

It is really hard to let go of ideas about what a birthday party should look like. We want our kids to be happy and have a party they will always remember. We want smiley pictures for their scrapbook. We want them to be able to look back and have fond memories when they are older. We want them to feel special and loved.

It’s funny how parents get caught up in their own stories. Some have memories of their childhood birthdays and want to make sure their children’s birthdays are just as special. Some don’t have the fond memories, so they want to do everything possible to make sure their children’s birthdays are better than theirs were. Either way, we usually think we have the child’s best interest in mind.

Here’s the thing, I don’t think kids actually care so much about all the hoopla. Kids just want us to be there for them. They want us to be completely present with them. This becomes almost impossible to do while concentrating on all the usual birthday hoopla. Parents with the best intentions end up being the ones who miss out because they are so distracted. When this happens, kids lose too. They lose their parents presence.

We have to get these crazy ideals out of our heads. My husband and I both risked our lives going to stores to get items we thought we MUST have for a birthday party. I went to Walmart first, sanitized my cart, then proceeded to walk through the isles as people passed me with their facemasks on. This was my first time out in a few weeks, so I didn’t even know what to expect. It never even dawned on me to wear a mask grocery shopping, but next time I will. As I found myself holding my breath in the store I suddenly felt like germs were everywhere. I tried not to breathe anything in. All this for a birthday cake.

I thought to myself, “This is crazy! What am I even doing here? What is more important healthy parents or a birthday cake?” Oh, the stories we have in our heads about the way things need to be. I could have turned around and walked out, but I didn’t. I risked my life so my children would have cake for their birthdays.

Next on my agenda was balloons, plastic tablecloths, birthday napkins and paper plates. So instead of going home I risked my life even further by going to the Dollar Store. What is a birthday party without decorations? Again, in the big picture, would my kids rather have healthy parents or balloons and partyware? We really need to rethink these stories. My husband was just as bad. His love language is gifts so he went to the local bike store to purchase a bike for my five-year old. The story in his head is that his child will not feel special without an amazing gift. All this shopping right in the midst of a pandemic. Kind of crazy!

We could have stopped there, but what is a party without grandparents? My parents have done a great job of following the quarantine rules up until this point. They are in their late 70’s. We invited them over because that’s what we usually do. We planned for everyone to stay outside and tried to stay 6-feet apart at all times, but there were a few times we broke the 6-foot rule by mistake. I hope a few careless moments don’t get my parents sick. What is more important- grandparents at your party or healthy grandparents? We are such creatures of habit and my parents felt they needed to be here in real time. That’s how grandparents show their love.

I hope you learn from the mistakes we made. If you are a parent and your child has an upcoming birthday go ahead and celebrate. It doesn’t have to look like all of their other birthdays. Keep it as simple as possible this year. Your number one priority right now is safety for yourself and your family. What your child needs most this year is healthy parents and a healthy family.

A healthy family is so much more important than presents and cake. Your child wouldn’t trade you for anything in the world. Your child just wants to be seen by you and have you spend time with them in their world. Relax about all the party details and spend that time connecting with your child instead. I guarantee it will make your child feel happy and special, even without all the hoopla.

Do Better & Shine

Flexibility

There is nothing more frustrating and exhausting than a child who is inflexible. I have a four-year old. I know we can all have our moments of inflexibility, but preschoolers can take it to a whole new level of insanity and make life extra hard. Consider yourself lucky if you only had to deal with the terrible twos or the tantrum threes.

When behaviors continue past a certain point you wonder what in the world is going on. Fear takes over and you decide its finally time to get some professional help. Once you have a better understanding of your child’s lagging skills you can more confidently make a plan and pray the craziness will soon come to an end.

The kids definition of flexible in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “possible or easy to bend” or “easily changed.” When you have a strong-willed child every interaction can feel impossible because the child completely refuses to bend. I wish I knew what it was like to easily switch from one activity to another with him, but transitions are hard every single time.

Something drastic finally needed to be done, so I decided no more outings. Every outing ended in a meltdown, which was his way of telling me the world was too big right now, I just needed to pay attention and meet him where he was at. When I stopped putting him in the same situations that kept triggering meltdowns I could see his body start to calm after a few days. He began to enjoy the safety of home as he had more time to relax and less reason to get upset. Surprisingly he also started to initiate play with us and even alone, which was a new skill for him. It’s amazing how fast the brain can change and grow when it is not always recovering from a state of stress.

After a full week of practicing strategies at home to help teach him how to be more flexible and seeing such great progress, I was ready to attempt to take him out in the world again. I decided on a quick run to Target. There was nothing important on my list so I was ready to walk out if I needed to. I told him my expectations from the start and he was warned that we would leave if there was a problem.

Right away he noticed the colorful candies on display. Some shiny red packages caught his eye and he said he wanted to look at them. As I walked on by I told him we would come back and look at those in a little bit. He was too tempted by the shiny packages and slowly walked away from me and towards the display. I motioned with my finger for him to come back and surprisingly he did. I was impressed that he actually came back and said, “Thank-you for being a listener.” He smiled and said, “You mean thank-you for being FLEXIBLE?” I just stopped and stared at him with big eyes. It was the first time he ever used the word flexible. I began to think everything was finally starting to sink in.

This whole week made me think about the children’s book Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus. The story is about a little lion who can’t seem to do all the things his friends are doing. The father can’t stop worrying about it, but the mother is not too concerned. Of course in his own sweet time he does bloom and learn to do everything his father feared he wouldn’t. Leo proclaims, “I made it!”

Every child will go through a challenge at some point in their life. It might be potty training, eating, sleeping, reading, writing, math, making friends, difficult behavior or something else. Parents don’t like watching their kids struggle, but it will likely be the struggle that will make them the amazing person they become. Be grateful for the struggle because it will help you learn and grow, even though it might be hard in the moment.

Remember that flowers bloom and close and bloom again. Blooming is a lifelong process, it’s not something that we ever arrive at, but something we keep working towards. My son had an encouraging week, but he still has a long way to go. Of course there will be more meltdowns and more struggles in the future. At the end of the story the little lion says, “I made it.” I don’t think we ever make it. We are all a work in progress. Our goal is to keep doing better and keep blooming.

If you are struggling with your child in any area don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Sometimes just having a better understanding of the problem can help you approach it from a place of love instead of a place of fear. This will make all the difference.

Do Better & Shine

Lizard Brain

I am thrilled that my youngest son has a teacher that specifically teaches classes in mindfulness. It is probably not practiced enough, but I am happy to know that it does exist. I wish I had more knowledge of exactly what is being taught, but for now I am going by what my four-year old tells me.

He has shown me different breaths he has learned to calm his body. His favorite is called the “Volcano Breath”. When I was doing Yoga at home the other day he heard the instructor say, “Lion’s Breath” and he told me he learned that breath in school. He said I was doing it wrong and showed me how to do it correctly, letting out a big lion roar. I was also surprised when he told me he had a “Lizard Brain”. He could not put into words what it meant, but when I told him how his “lizard brain” keeps him safe, he understood. He also told me his teacher had a lizard puppet.

So last night after two very long weeks of winter break, lots of traveling, and probably not enough sleep, I decided my youngest should take a bath before bed to be ready for school the next day. He was already being pretty bossy, so I should have known this might not go well. When it came time to wash hair he insisted on doing it himself. When he didn’t get his hair quite wet enough, I took it upon myself to pour a cup of water over his head when he wasn’t expecting it.

His “lizard brain” went into full effect! His first response is to fight! So he takes his hands and give me three big splashes, soaking my clothes. I was not happy, but I also did not react. I could feel myself going into “lizard brain” mode too, but after years of practice, I am finally able to recognize it and move on. His next response is to tell me he doesn’t love me. He knows exactly what to say to stab my heart and get revenge. At this point the option of washing his hair was over unless I was going to go into full on battle with him. He was mad. I was very frustrated. We both needed to calm down. I helped him out of the tub, but I was in no mood to help him with anything else.

He went downstairs and sat in his rocking chair wrapped up in blankets. I sat on my bed and took some deep breaths. Once I regained some composure and compassion, yet still damp from being splashed, I went into the fridge and brought him a slice of cake for a bedtime snack. He ate half the cake, too tired to be completely happy about it. I helped him get his pajamas on, he brushed his teeth and hopped straight into bed. I asked if I could snuggle with him and he said, “No, I hate you.” I said, “Maybe tomorrow.” I told him, just like I told my older kids when they were little, “I love you always and forever and no matter what.” He closed his eyes and went to sleep.

When I came into the kitchen this morning he was eating his cereal. I asked if I could sit down beside him. After thinking about it for a moment he said, “Yes.” I asked him if he still loved me today and he said, “Yes, I do.” We talked about what happened last night. I know he felt bad for splashing me and I told him that it wasn’t really him that splashed me, it was his “lizard brain.” Sometimes our emotions completely take over and our lizard gets out of his cage. Even though it is not a life or death situation, sometimes our brain does not take that into consideration and just goes right to fight or flight. Some kids are super sensitive and go here more easily than others.

Everyone has a “lizard brain”, we just need to learn to recognize it. I told my son we need to try to keep our lizard in its cage when we don’t really need it. A little water over our head is not the same as having to survive if we are drowning. If it comes out of the cage by mistake, we can practice our volcano breaths or our lion breaths to put it back where it belongs. We can snuggle up in our blanket and rock. We can get a good night’s sleep, or do whatever else helps calm our brain and body.

This takes years of practice. Many adults still don’t even recognize their lizard brain and why their lizard charged out of its cage in a particular moment. You are way ahead of the game learning this at age four. We will keep practicing. The more we practice the more we understand our emotions and are able to have a little more control over them. You did all the right things to get yourself back on track. Sometimes we just need to sleep on it too. Everything looks better in the morning!

~DO BETTER & Shine