It’s a blankie, and way more than a blankie.

We were in the van on our way to ballet and the ACE program, and I was listening to the news.

(Note: Don’t listen to the news with young children unless you like answering hard questions.)

This was unusual for me because I don’t like to expose my kids to too much violence. We talk about the world in layers. Right now they are in the layer where they are learning to discern safe from unsafe.

But on this particular drive, I felt like I needed to know what was going on, so we listened.

And my daughter was taking it all in.

What if that happens in our city? If it does, and I’m only allowed to take one thing with me – I will take “mimi.”

“Mimi” is the name of her blankie. Yes, my daughter is 7 years old, and I have no plans to make her give it up. She has to grow up in 100 different ways during each new day, and I want her to be able to go to sleep at night and still remember her littleness.

Blankie and more than a blankie

I wrote last week about being your child’s safe place. And while the idea is easy to spell out, and the reasons are many to desire this for your child – it’s a whole lot easier said than done.

Because sometimes I don’t feel like their safe place. I don’t want to allow her to express herself by scattering (what feels like) 1,000 papers across the floor. Or I simply don’t want to hear what he has to say. Again.

It can be rough. And it feels a whole lot like sacrifice. Like dying to myself.

But before I go on, this is not a post where the call to action is embrace your child and allow them to do whatever they want. I believe in discipline, order, and respect. I don’t allow myself to do “whatever I want” and so I don’t teach that to my children either.

But. I do teach them that they have value regardless of their behavior.

And I want them to know that I choose to value what they value too, because that is a part of love.

So I value “mimi” with all my heart. I protect her with sincerity. This blankie has been with my daughter through everything. Moves, time away from parent(s), illnesses, losses, milestones, etc. The first thing my daughter will do when she hears bad news is run to find her “mimi.”

For my 5 year old, his greatest treasure is similar. He too has a blanket and his “babies.” (Don’t ask me when or why he started calling his stuffed animals his “babies” – he does and they are cared for like children. It’s very sweet; he’s going to be a tender daddy someday.)

And for the little guy, it’s his blankie too, but also his favorite spatula or his ukulele.

Homeschool Music 1

While they each have their ultimate valuable, they also transfer temporary value to things that are in other ways just trash. A candy wrapper from a birthday party, a neon admittance bracelet from the fair, a McDonald’s toy (for goodness’ sake it feels like these things breed and reproduce when I’m not looking), a bead from a broken necklace, a bouncy ball from a 25₵ machine. It can be anything!

Because for them, that one little piece of trash holds a memory.

And memories are precious. I think kids understand this more than adults. They see how quickly they are growing up. They feel the changes in their development, and they want to live their lives full. Soaking in each little moment from birth to the end.

So while I’ve had my moments of ranting about the thousands of papers scattered aimlessly across my daughter’s bed, I’ve also grown to slow down and ask her to tell me the story.

Why does this matter to you? What memory does this hold? And while she’s telling me, I see that she’s letting it go. The trash part. As the story is shared, and she can tell that I care – she realizes that she may not have to keep the sticky wrapper to remember the sweet taste of a lifesaver.

I respect that she transfers value to these little things as a way to hold onto memories, and she respects me in that she knows she isn’t allowed to scatter her memories all over the house. We work together. I help her take ownership of organizing her memories, and she grows in discerning what memories need a physical reminder and what ones can be stored in her heart.

It’s a work in progress. It’s an opportunity to grow in mutual respect.

But it’s the number one way that I have become and continue to be her safe place. So it’s worth it.

What does your child(ren) value? How can you show them that you respect them in this?

Subscribe to The Home Learner by Email

Be Their Safe Place

Be their safe place

What comes to mind when you think of a “safe place?”

Your room growing up? A tree house? A favorite book or movie? Is it connected to a feeling, food, or friend?

Everyone needs a place where they feel invited and secure. A place where they belong.

I had the privilege of attending a conference a couple of years ago where I was introduced to Dr. Kathy Koch (“Cook”). Her seminar on the 5 Core Needs rocked my world.

This information wasn’t like the other seminars I had attended like: How to Homeschool with Toddlers or Struggling Readers. No the information Kathy shared went to the very heart of why it is the highest calling to be a parent.

I have the greatest influence on my children.

Whether their needs are met by me or someone else, I am accountable for them. At the end of the day, how I raise my children – the choices I make for their education, recreation, entertainment, etc. – will either feed them or starve them.

For weeks after the seminar, I observed my children. I took note of their personalities, the highs and lows of their days, their interests, and what got them excited. (Did you know that you can learn a lot about how your child is gifted by watching what they do when they become excited. Say something surprising happens – grandma stops over unexpectedly with a gift, they get a letter in the mail, or a friend calls to invite them for a playdate – the first thing they choose to do after receiving this often tells me what makes them feel the most alive.)

The reason I wanted to take the time to make my observations was so that I could best teach them. I felt like I had been failing them. I was forcing a curriculum that was boring, or I did understand their natural strengths.

The initial main goal was to figure them out. Graph their needs on paper.

And this I did. It was phenomenal. I saw my children in a whole new light. I started reading How Am I Smart, and saw just how the definitions of “word smart” or “picture smart” revealed the inner strengths of my children. I was constantly telling my husband about our children’s behavior and how their behavior fit into this new philosophy of nurturing them. I was with them and for them. They were fascinating to me. I was loving how much I was learning and discovering. It was like a whole new world of understanding was within my grasp.

They were blossoming quicker it seemed as I spend more and more time studying and encouraging them with my new found love of learning them.

Love of learning them

They loved it too.

I was becoming their safe place.

And over time, I realized that my initial goal was based on the wrong desire. Sure teaching my children is important – very important as a homeschooling family – but loving them, securing them, and allowing them to feel like they belong is so much more important.

How do I know that I’m their safe place? Because for my oldest that means being ready to receive her expressions at any given moment. She needs permission and space to pour out her creative passion for life. My middle needs my ear. He needs to be able to tell me anything at any time. He feels safe knowing that I want to listen. And my youngest needs to hug. He shows that he feels the most safe when wrapped up in my arms. It’s the first thing he does in the morning, and the last thing he does at night.

So how can you become your child’s safe place?

Here’s 4 ways to start focusing on building belonging:

  • Always be happy to see them even when days are long and nights are short. Think about your facial expression. My husband is a great mirror for me with this because it is not natural for me. Think about saying “I care about you” with just your eyes.
  • Affirm them in their gifts and talents. We all need reminders that we matter to our loved ones. Someone who shows me they are happy to see me boosts my satisfaction with myself and strengthens the bond of our relationship.
  • Earn their trust by meeting their needs (affection, food, fun, etc.) Meet their physical needs consistently. Don’t make them ask for everything. And don’t wait for them to tell you what their needs are. Study them.
  • Train their wants by doing life with them. Addressing their desires head on – do not trick, lie, or avoid their requests. Again, meet their needs, but don’t confuse them by always giving in to their wants. This doesn’t help them feel safe; it can make them feel too much responsibility. A child who behaves as if they are entitled to all their wants is actually more unhappy than a child who has a healthy view of their wants in light of their needs being met.

So did I figure my kids out? Yes and no. I’m still learning. I did chart their strengths and smarts. But more than that, I fell more in love with who they are, and they noticed. Our bond has grown deeper and our sense of security more sure.

Monday’s Mindset is: It’s worth the work to be their safe place.

There is an affiliate link in this post. Also, if you know me personally be on the lookout for more information coming soon! With more family pictures too. 🙂