What Lou said
A few of us were recalling this week how much we enjoyed Lou Harvey-Zahra’s workshops… and yet how much we had forgotten as well!
Being such a prolific note-taker, I may be able to help with the amnesia! Thanks for prompting me to return to those notes, to recall my own highlights, and reflect on the impact her talk had on our family.
Her most memorable piece of advice for me was to try and start the day by “filling up the child’s love tank” - greeting them each morning with a smile or a hug or by rubbing noses. And the idea that children need warmth - including feeling the warmth of our love. It ties in with her image of having three imaginary jars that we fill each day with positive, neutral and negative interactions, and try to make sure that by the end of the day, the first two are fuller than the third. We can’t always prevent or easily settle arguments and upset, but choosing to find as many opportunities as possible for kind, playful, loving interactions day by day helps the relationship in the long term.
I found it really helpful to think about “discipline” in terms of understanding motives and behaviour, that is, understanding what is going on under the behaviours; and as an opportunity to teach and pass on our values - instead of in terms of rewards and punishment in order to manage and control a smaller person.
I liked Lou’s practical ideas - sand timers; her alternatives to saying “don’t…” (e.g. talking about “clever hands”); teaching children to use a small, middle-sized and big bear voice to say “stop I don’t like it”; always tidying up after play, even if that just means putting a cloth over it. (Genius!)
I love the message - and I guess it’s not just for parent-child relationships - that it’s not about being perfect, it’s about re-building the bridge. Saying sorry. Not going to bed angry. Re-filling the love tank.
A thought that resonates quite personally for me is the importance of trying to enjoy motherhood - because children feel how we feel about them. This can be another guilt-stick to beat ourselves with, because we can’t necessarily help how we feel, and motherhood comes with so many inbuilt challenges, frustrations, sacrifices.
But I think this is a reason why Lincolnshire Waldorf Group means to me so much: it is about the recognition that we, as parents, need to be OK; we need to value the work we do and treat ourselves with more care and respect than we sometimes do; and remember that the way we are feeling matters. For me, LWG has always been a way of giving myself a little of what I need as a mother. Re-connecting with other parents, and going - goodness this is hard at times! - and being able to laugh and cry about it together!
And then re-connecting with my child: going out in the woods and sharing the beauty and peace and joy of nature and the changing seasons. The wonder of a spider’s web. Observing him in the bird room at Gentle Days, a chance to just stop long enough to remember how in love I am! Watching his absorption and enchantment in Lucy’s story.
And realising what unutterably privileged work it is, to witness and share this journey into the world with another person!
If you were there at Lou’s talk, how do my recollections match up with yours? What highlights do you recall? Has anything changed at home?
If you weren’t with us, we do hope to invite Lou back again next year, and her books are in our library. In the meantime, watch this space for details of a workshop with Dorothy Marlen in November at St Giles Nursery School. Dorothy is an inspiration and a long term friend and mentor to our group, and we are so lucky to be able to have her for a talk and workshop in Lincoln. See you there...