I stood in the doorway. Uneasy, uncertain if I was at the right place at all. I couldn’t seem to find my way around this hospital. My eyes flashed back and forth, seeking for some sort of assurance. A doctor passed me, I stepped aside to let him pass in the narrow hallway. I read the sign on the door again. It said to report here, but the lady behind the desk was ignoring me. Her phone conversation seemed to be going on forever. Then she stepped out of the room and passed me. Nothing about her acknowledged the fact that I was there. She held her nose high, her face a mask of arrogance. Her heels clicked away while I repressed the hint of anger that I felt rising in my stomach.
I took a seat and a big breath of air and turned to my phone for distraction. The heels came clicking down the hallway again. Still on the phone, she took her seat behind the desk again. Still nothing. I was completely invisible to her. By this time I was having a vivid conversation with myself.
“Leave it Mirjam. She’s talking to a patient. Maybe she didn’t see you.”
“I am so certain that she saw me! This is not worth getting angry over.”
“But you have to stand up for yourself!”
“No, I’ll just leave it.”
The doctor called me in and ended my inner struggle. I mumbled something about being ignored, but let go of the situation. After my appointment, I sat in the same hallway again waiting for the doctor to hand me the forms for my bloodwork. A woman approached me, she smiled apologetically. Her face was soft and friendly.
“I’m so sorry that I kept you waiting,” she said. “I had a situation and I was in a panic. Are you still waiting for me? Did the doctor call you in already? You don’t have to wait in the hallway, you can wait in the lounge, where you can have a cup of coffee. I’m so sorry. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
As she walked away, I could have slapped myself in the face. If there is anything I have learned this past year from working with kids with special needs, then it is that there is always more then what you can see at first sight. My first rule is: whenever there’s an extreme, look beyond the behavior. There’s always a reason for the behavior. No one yells for no reason. No kid acts out for no reason. At my work when I react to the behavior, I miss out on the real reason behind the behavior. I miss out on a chance to really connect.
I have used this technique a lot in my work. When a kid starts throwing things in anger, I can give a lecture about not throwing things and give a consequence. But I can also start a conversation by saying: ‘I can see that you are really angry,” and find out what the real issue is.
Most of the time I find out that the angry child is feeling sick, had a difficult morning or is feeling anxious about something. Addressing the real issue always deescalates the situation quickly.
I have also tried this technique at home. Whenever my youngest is whiney and starts yelling for no apparent reason, instead of reprimanding her or correcting her behavior, I stop and think a moment and then I address or investigate the situation. I take her by the hand and look her in the eye. “Are you hungry? Shall I make you something to eat?”, “Did you have a rough day? Do you want a hug?”, “You are tired, aren’t you? Do you want to sit on the couch, can I get you a blanket? Shall I make you a cup of tea?”
I haven’t perfected this technique, at least not at home. I have found that at home it is harder to control my emotions. When one of my kids starts acting extreme, my first instinct is still to correct the behavior or to step in and join the madness. At work it is easier. I can take a step back and think before I react. But I am getting better at this every day. The situation in the hospital has taught me that adults are no different from children in this area. Instead of getting angry, I could have reacted with patience. I could have been more apprehensive. In hindsight, I realize that I did notice that her cheeks were flushed. I heard her say that she was doing her best to fix the situation. I should have looked beyond her behavior.
When I look at the world around me this way, I find that I am so much more understanding, so much more forgiving for people around me. This is why I am sharing this with you today. Because we could all use a bit more understanding, right? The next time your child, spouse, neighbor or coworker starts yelling or overreacts for no apparent reason, don’t join the madness. Take a step back, think, make eye contact or make physical contact and address the situation, investigate.
I guarantee you, you will witness a tiny miracle.
Do you think you can use this technique? Have you ever been in a situation where there was more behind someone’s behavior than you thought at first?
This is an original post for World Moms Network written by Mirjam in the Netherlands
Although budget cuts mostly mean changes for the worst, sometimes they turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
At the start of the 90s the government had to cut down the costs of special education. I was learning to be a teacher, when a project named “Together To School Again” was a much talked about topic in the Dutch school system.
It was brought to us as “progress”, of course, and it was backed by all kinds of educational specialists, but received with a lot of resistance in teaching land. After all, WE were the ones executing the damn monstrosity.
The goal was to keep children with disabilities-in-the-broadest-sense (so, from hearing difficulties to behavioral problems) in normal schools as much as possible, with extra help from special education teachers/therapists, or remedial teachers, who then became full time class assistants. Another goal was to keep the classes small, 25 children max. Only the really difficult ones would go to special education schools.
I didn’t really get all that resistance from my (future) colleagues. I knew very well that this whole charade was not educational progress, but budget cuts, but I also felt that this could turn out okay. In fact, I believed it should be normal to have a society where we include all people, and an educational system that would work for all sorts of children: refugees who don’t speak the language, children from war zones, children who roll instead of walk, children who talk with their hands instead of their mouths, children with narrow boundaries and children with overly wide boundaries, well, you catch my drift. And mind you, ADHD was still a rare symptom, just like gluten allergy, and autism was “just” autism. And they were illnesses, causing behavioral problems in class.
Fast forward to today.
Inclusive education has become the new norm, and the new normal. We have so much more, refined knowledge of and information about the abovementioned diseases (and the ones added since). We learn more and more that their symptoms might as well be the ways humanity adapts to different energies, different vibrations. Indigo children, crystal children, rainbow children, so many beautiful names. We begin to understand that in addition to the downsides of special needs kids, there are many plus sides too. Their creative thinking, their wisdom, the authenticity of these special kids is amazing and should not be restrained – it should be encouraged. We learn that being outside, playing in the dirt, playing in general, having enough physical exercise and a nutritious meal is key to a happy life and happy offspring. We learn that “not being normal” is actually quite normal.
The concept of inclusion is also being applied to special care facilities, like the one our son is attending, called “classroom on wheels”.
The founding father of this concept is Roeland Vollaard. Working as a physical therapist in a special care facility, and fostering a boy with severe disabilities during weekends and vacation periods, his dream of including his clients in the real world began. He got promoted to manager of an orthopedagogical daycare center for children aged 3 to 14, and met a mother who had a deep wish for her son to be around healthy kids. She noticed her son reacted totally different around her other kids than at the daycare center. They started an experiment at the school of her other children: her special kid attended classes with kids his own age, with help and care of personnel from the daycare center. Needless to say, the experiment worked out perfectly.
Children with severe multiple disabilities gain their support mostly in special facilities. There is hardly any contact with non-disabled peers. This is called segregation (right in the diagram).
Classroom on Wheels provides schooling, short-stay (sleep-over) possibility and home support. This is called INTEGRATION (bottom left).
Schooling happens in separate classrooms, but inside a “normal” school complex. Younger children attend a primary school; the older children join a high school. Working together with all parties means INCLUSION (bottom right).
Source: translated from the website http://www.klasopwielenalkmaar.nl
We kind of stumbled upon the opportunity to be part of this. We met when Roeland was still manager of the daycare center, due to our son’s physical problems (this was just after his accident and rehab). He went somewhere else, but was sick all the time, and we needed home support. Roeland applied. He came cycling 15 km to be at our place at 6.30 am, take care of our son so I could take care of our daughter, put him on the bus and cycle back, in all weather conditions, never too late, never too early. He probably saved us and gave us hope, when we had lost everything.
And then, when he started his Classroom on Wheels, our son was able to slide right in.
Making good use of interns and volunteers, sponsoring, low overhead costs, new technology that needs testing, and keeping a small paid employees list (but still being able to guarantee one-on-one supervision), the Classroom can provide the latest technology and know-how, the best equipment, excellent care, and a lot of love. And besides hanging out with their disabled friends, they go out for walks to the mall, the library, the park with their healthy pals, attend and give presentations, do art work together, listen to stories, have recess together. And though it was frightening for a lot of the “normal” children at school, now they got to know the Classroom kids, read to them, look into their eyes and know that deep inside, behind the frozen faces, inside these deformed bodies that are being denied to do what other kids take for granted, behind the spasms and the epilepsy and the goofy screams, that deep inside, there is a child yearning for respect, love, communication, interaction. To be really heard, to be really seen. Just like they do.
And besides that: what “normal” kid can say he’s got a wheel-chair-drivers-license, and an elevator-utility-using-permit, and a drool-wipe-diploma?
Inclusion works both ways……
The Classroom just celebrated its 5th year anniversary, and the benefits are really starting to show.
Not only on a personal level for all involved, but even the Ministry of Education has shown interest, as well as organizations surrounding special care children, because it is proof that cost reducing does not have to mean care reducing.
Luckily, our main man Roeland, is not a sell-out……..
Our son Fygo is linked to a 6th grade group. Together they made a presentation about the eye tracking computer he is learning to use. In technology class, they made an arm stand for him from K’nex. In world orientation class, he loves to listen to stories about other countries, other cultures, loves watching nature movies, especially about wild animals, they stimulate him to use his computer for the better, and HE DOES IT for them.
Until it is time for feeding, diaper changes, physical therapy, musical therapy, showering, resting. Then he goes back to the calm of his own classroom and the love of all the people working there.
He’s happy and thriving.
How privileged we are…….
When my husband and I got married over 16 years ago, we had very little belongings. What little savings we had, we spent on the wedding and on buying paint for our new home.
We had no furniture, not even a bed.
Any help we were offered by friends and family was refused by us. We knew exactly what furniture we wanted and saved every penny to buy furniture piece by piece. We made numerous trips to Ikea just to fantasize about how our house would look like furnished. We went to work and cooked a meal together and ate it while we sat on the kitchen counter or on the floor. Life was uncomplicated in those days. If I had to make a list of my possessions back then, it would have probably fit on one page. And I am not sure if that page would have been full.
With every year that passed my house started filling up with things: furniture, tableware, linen, and baby furniture, toys.
More and more stuff came in through the door: clothes, kitchen supplies, books, videogames.
Suddenly my house was full and my life had become complicated. Some of my days felt like an endless list of chores, schedules, and mostly decluttering. I felt suffocated by the amount of things I owned. I started longing for the simplicity of those first days when my life (and my house) wasn’t filled with so much stuff.
It wouldn’t have been a problem if I hadn’t had such a hard time with throwing things away. Many of the things I owned held memories for me. I can go through my things and tell you a story about every item. About the way I felt when I purchased it, I can tell you who gave it to me or why I desperately wanted to have it. My memory is selective that way. I cannot say exactly in what year I graduated, but ask me about any toy my kids have and I can tell you exactly where or who they got it from.
It was little over a year that I took a good look around and decided I wanted a change. At first I started clearing out and organizing my closets. After a while I started throwing out more and more things. With every closet I cleaned out, with every bag of clutter that left the house, I felt happier and lighter. Since then I have devoted myself to simplifying my life.
On Pinterest, where I spend more time than is probably considered healthy, I discovered that my new found strife for simplicity actually has a name: minimalism. I now know that minimalism is about far more than having less things. Minimalism for me is the art of letting go. Being content with living in the here and now not clinging to the past or hasting your way on to the future. Minimalism is embracing simplicity in its purest form. Pausing, breathing and enjoying the essentials. And surrounding oneself with nothing more than that. After all we should carry our memories with us, there is no use on stacking them ten feet high on shelves in boxes that we never look in. Minimalism is about trust, about not having to be prepared for every little thing, not having to keep everything because you might need that one item one day in the future.
I have been trying to convert myself from a compulsive hoarder to a content minimalist for over a year now. I have a long way and many stacks of clutter to go but I will get there. I even have a name for this journey. I named it: Project Simplify and it is definitely to be continued.
Tell me your thoughts: What is your experience with clutter? Do you have difficulties with throwing things away?
This is an original post for World Mom’s Network by Mirjam from the Netherlands.
Where in the world do you live? And, are you from there?
My name is Coretta Vermeulen. I am a 1970’s child, the daughter of my 81 year old mom and my dad who would have turned 88 today. I’m the mother of three kids by birth, bonus mom of two, and spare grandmom of one.
I was born and raised in the Netherlands. Now, this is not a big country, but I took a giant leap of faith moving from a small town in the North to the big city of Amsterdam. Oh, I can tell you stories about that!!! And I will, in time.
What language(s) do you speak?
My native tongue is Dutch, but I also read, write and speak English and German. In Dutch high schools, learning foreign languages is mandatory. Whoo, lucky me!
When did you first become a mother (year/age)?
I became a mom at age 27. I was drawn to the man who fathered my oldest son (oh, I can tell you stories about that!!!) because of his interaction with his then 4-year-old daughter. I actually never wanted kids before, not because I didn’t love kids (I did), but because of the whole lifetime relationship with someone who claimed to be the dad. I really hadn’t had the best example, daddy-wise. It freaked me out. But this man was so sweet with his daughter, giving her attention, revolving his whole life around her. So I thought: what the heck, let’s just go for it. As days became weeks (yeah, that fast!) I noticed the psychiatric imbalances in him: it ruined a perfectly good man with a good heart. But by then I was already pregnant, and I decided to just make the best out of everything. Who knows how far I could come with him? After all, my love for him would cure him, right? And then there was his daughter, who was depending on me too. So, we gave it a shot.
Are you a stay-at-home mom or do you work?
I’ve been working on and off since I became a mother. I had my teaching diploma, but there was little work in schools for young teachers. Fortunately, my then husband had been putting up a remedial program for dyslexic kids, and they could use me in it. So we worked both half a week, bringing our son to his grandparents once a week. It was the perfect balance. Until it all blew up in my face.
After my divorce and move to Amsterdam, I had a 40 hour work week at a school with lots of different ethnicities, young kids aged 4 to 6/7 years old. I took my son to school with me. After a while, I could ask some parents to babysit while I was having conferences, meetings, and the like. I remember this time as one of my strongest periods. I was so proud that I did this, all alone, recovering from an abusive marriage, recovering from very strong and powerful family ties, having a 40 hour job that I loved. I lived the insecure life of illegal sublet housing before I got my own place, redone and redecorated just by me, the handy-gal. I was a single mom in a strange city, and even considered having a second child by myself.
A series of incidents made me realize that although I AM a teacher, I cannot be bound by rules and regulations that I don’t support, and that do not support teachers or students. As my life took a turn to the worse, I gave up on teaching and haven’t been working since. I met my current husband, married and moved again. We had two children, and I stayed at home.
That’s going to end though, but I will tell that some other time, too.
Why do you blog/write?
I have always loved writing, but I am a little shy. At 46, I recognize that every artist is unsure about his or her own talent, even when someone performs daily over a period of years. So the writing thing (singing thing, creating thing, painting thing) never really left the building, except sometimes on Facebook or Google-Blogger. I do get nice responses, but I tend to think people are “just saying that to not make me feel too bad”. I recently auditioned to be a singer in a band nearby, but I’ve not heard from them. I guess the singing thing will stay at home with me, but I hope I will do a better job at the writing thing.
We have a very different family, which you all will definitely come to know. Writing about the things we experience daily helps me in a lot of ways, and I think maybe other people might benefit from it, if I can make someone smile or see things in another perspective, like it does to me.
What makes you unique as a mother?
I don’t consider myself special or unique. I am just a girl who gave birth to some live dolls. I act out like a little girl all the time. But that’s just a phase I’m in right now.
I think that my YOUNIQUENESS lies in being authentic. Although I try to hide my bad moods and not project my problems/emotions onto my family members, I really can’t. So yeah, sometimes I shout and yell and curse, but mostly that is pure and utter frustration from my side, after having said something for the @#$%&*! time, or tripping over shoes in front of the doorway, or picking up laundry from all over the house. I am consequently inconsequential, and that is a good thing, because I am flexible like that. I am NOT a hover-mom: my 9 year old daughter cycles to school on her own, facing traffic and traffic rules and teenagers blocking her way and what not. I haven’t seen the inside of her school for months now. I let her walk our big dog, because I trust them both. I let her go shopping for me and smile and praise her when she’s done her best finding the right groceries but ending up with completely different stuff than I asked for.
What do you view as the challenges of raising a child in today’s world?
Although there is a lot going on in the world, and it seems like the worst time to grow up, I don’t consider that being a parent is very difficult at all. From the births of my children, I have watched them grow just on their own. I could look at them for hours! How they discovered their hands, their feet, getting a reaction from repeatedly taking off their socks, being completely startled when first rolling over or standing up, and then the smile of triumph. All you have to do is put some food, love and trust in them, and the rest comes naturally. I believe in raising our kids authentically, with common sense, trusting their innate qualities and abilities, following some simple guidelines, parenting out of love and not fear, nurturing body, mind and heart. We need to set our own boundaries in which children can grow and discover safely. Above all, I want my children to be genuine, true to themselves, believing in themselves, being able to trust themselves as much as others.
How did you find World Moms Blog?
I’ve been reading World Moms Blog for quite some time now, as I am Facebook friends with other bloggers. I love reading about the interaction with our sprouts, the dos and dont’s, the similarities and the differences across the world, in different cultures. As a child, I always thought that my mother knew exactly what she was doing and why. After being a mom for almost 19 years now, I still don’t have a clue, and sometimes I’m even scared of being caught at it, so people can see: See, she acted like she knows everything about it, but look at her! I recently learned there’s a term for that, the “imposter syndrome”
But I’ve come to terms with just doing what I do and hope for the best. Up to now, I think we have managed just fine.
Photo credit: Coretta Vermeulen.
I write this in response to the recent terrorist attacks in Belgium on March 22th.
When I came home from work on Tuesday, I turned on the news and watched chaos and destruction. I am not particularly partial to watching the news, but this hit really close to home. I watched in shock and horror, not completely able to grasp exactly what I was watching.
Privileged as I have been most of my life, this kind of violence and terrorism are things that I watch on television or read about in the newspapers.
As my kids walked in, I felt a strong need to give them some sort of explanation or assurance that they were safe. I couldn’t. I was at a loss for words at that moment.
“Terrorists fight a war against unarmed women, children and elders,” I said. “They fight innocent people instead of playing by the rules and fighting against soldiers. That is what’s so wrong about terrorism. These victims had nothing to do with any war whatsoever. There were just living their lives.”
The news reporter switched to his colleagues in Beirut.
“What are the responses there?” he asked.
“People are shocked and appalled,” the reporter answered. “Although there are some who are happy that ISIS has been able to strike one of their enemies.”
I for one couldn’t understand why that was being reported hours after the attack. I can only imagine what it would feel like to lose a loved one to terrorism and to hear that people are cheering about it.
It was another hate seed being planted.
But sometimes my heart is flooded with fear and my mind worries about the future. It is not the terrorist attacks that scare me the most. What scares me the most is the growing intolerance against Muslims, refugees, and foreigners in Europe.
I see that hatred is growing, and bitter seeds of hate are being planted, watered, and rooted. My response is to double my efforts in teaching my children compassion, kindness and tolerance toward others. I realize that my reactions, my responses to these violent acts, will teach them how to respond to hate. So I refuse to be overwhelmed by fear or hatred. I grab onto hope and hold it tight.
On Friday, it was reported that in Brussels, people were writing messages of love and solidarity on the streets. The simple gesture of people writing with colored chalk warmed my heart.
Because if we are able turn to love instead of hatred, the terrorists haven’t won.
My heart goes out to the people affected by this tragedy.
“Hope is being able to see that there is light in spite of all the darkness.”
– Desmond Tutu –
How do you hold onto hope in the wake of terrorism? How do you talk to your children about it?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mirjam of the Netherlands. Picture credit: Christine Organ.
I used to visit the library every chance I had. It was my favorite place in the world. I loved its quiet atmosphere, the air thick and warm with stories, knowledge, wisdom, all ready to be discovered in hundreds of books.
And oh, the smell. I loved walking through those endless-looking shelves filled with books waiting to be read. I was a fast reader, and devoured books as if I was a hungry predator. I was always looking for a new book to read.
The selection of books was a meticulous process. I’d browse through the youth section of the library, searching for the perfect choice. I would take a book out and put it back, carefully study book covers and read the information on the back. I was very picky about the cover. The cover had to be pretty. If I wasn’t feeling it, I wasn’t reading it. If I didn’t like the cover, I wouldn’t even flip the book over to read the back. I was never going to read an ugly book.
The downside to being a fast reader and a picky book picker was that after a few months there were no more books to read.
No books with pretty book covers that is. Hesitantly I started perusing the youth section again, this time going for second best. I read Roald Dahl’s The Giant Peach, the one Roald Dahl book I had neglected to read because I didn’t like the cover.
I vividly remember how much fun I had reading that book. After that, I discovered one surprising book after another. They all revealed content that I never would have guessed from looking at the cover alone.
One day I read The Blooming Mimosa Tree by Gerda van Cleemput. For months I had kept putting the book back on the shelf because of its hideous cover. When I finally read it, it blew me away. The book told the life story of Helen Keller. I was intrigued and found my first real hero. I cried with her disappointments, cheered with her victories. When I had to walk down the stairs I closed my eyes and tried to find my way in the dark. I sat on my bed trying to imagine the sweet smell of mimosa flowers.
The book left a huge impression on me. It taught me the meaning of the word “perseverance”.
Yes, I learned a valuable lesson at that young age. I am wired to react to visuals, and I’m naturally drawn to pretty things. I guess we all are to some extent. We let our eyes guide us and motivate who or what to choose and how to judge. And by doing so we miss out on inspiring people, fabulous places and great experiences.
So say hello to that other mother who is not your kind of person. Give your best smile to that teenage girl covered in face piercings. Offer coffee to the eccentric old man across the street or offer to help that foreign family with their different manners and clothing. You may find a hidden treasure on the inside.
These days I’m still a little flaky when it comes to picking out books, and I’m still oversensitive to pretty book covers. When choosing a book I touch it, smell it, read the back, open up the book and read a few lines.
But I never ever judge a book by it’s cover. Because beauty isn’t always visible from the outside.
Are you tempted to judge people (or books) by the way they look? Tell me about the hidden treasures you have discovered when you ignored whatever it was that your eyes tried to tell you.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mirjam of the Netherlands. Photo credit: Entressen kirjasto. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.