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“We have a choice. We can spend our whole life suffering because we can’t relax with how things really are, or we can relax and embrace the open-endedness of the human situation, which is fresh, unfixated, unbiased.”
― Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
This morning my sister-in-law told me that my nephew, who is 27 months old, got very upset when they bought diapers yesterday. While she was able to sneak them into the cart when he wasn’t looking, he was so adamant that they not come home that, when he saw them at checkout, he took the package back to the diaper aisle and left it there. Of course, he’s not really potty-trained yet, either, so she’s helping him clean up, a natural consequence.
I really love my sister-in-law, and I admire the sense of humor she had in telling me the story. I believe that one of the things that helps us through such days as parents is a sense of acceptance—or, at any rate, I’ve learned that the more accepting I am of the situation as I find it, the easier it is for me to get through such moments with a bit of humor.
These days, with my relatively new job, people often ask, “How is it going?”
I teach Spanish to Kindergarten through eighth grade students. However, they don’t come in order of age—so, my first graders come into class right after my fifth graders. I go into Kindergarten between seventh and eighth grade classes. While I try to teach some of the same lessons to multiple grades, even within that lesson I have to make micro adjustments according to which group of kids I’m teaching.
And, just as in parenting, things go more smoothly when I practice acceptance of where my students are at any given moment. The first graders come right after recess. It took me all of about two days to realize that I could either spend the whole time telling them they couldn’t go get water, or I could line everyone up at the drinking fountain before coming into class. (This happened right about the time I figured out we needed to do “Breathing Arms.”) In my ideal world, of course, they’d all have water bottles, full and ready to go. I can have a high level of expectation about that. However, it’s not the reality, and to maintain that expectation only means frustration for everyone. Such an age span means that I continually have to adjust my expectations for where the kids are at on any given day, at any particular age, with any particular mix of kids. It is good practice for my life outside the classroom, too.
I notice the same with Kindermusik. When my child is tired or hungry, being in class may be tough for her. “Should” it be? No, often she just ate. But maybe it’s that she’s going through a growth spurt and needs more sleep or food. Maybe she’s getting a bit of a cold and I haven’t realized it yet.
In Kindermusik, we follow the child. That means sometimes our kids may not feel like participating as fully as they did last week or will again next week—and it’s OK! Maybe they decide to have a full-blown temper tantrum in the middle of class because they just can’t let go of the scarf. My son regularly did not want to do group things during Kindermusik class when he was a preschooler. The quicker I get over thinking, “This is not how it’s supposed to be,” the sooner I get to, “This is how it is,” and consequently, the easier it is to just deal with the situation at hand and calmly allow the natural consequences to follow. That may mean hanging back and letting my child participate on her own terms. It may mean getting food, or leaving class altogether, or otherwise patiently implementing some discipline strategies. (To be clear: I’m not saying this is easy!) When I’m parenting from this place of self-acceptance, I am giving my kids the gift of a mom who also accepts them.
All this goes to the heart of what I believe is one of our greatest needs as humans–to know that we are loved, wholly and completely for who we are, rather than for what we do.