Letter from a Mom

I wanted to send you a note to thank you for a couple of things.  First, the conference.  Wow.  It truly was one of the most informative and inspirational events I have attended in my life.  I just got so much out of it, as did everyone I spoke with who attended.  The ripple effect from those few days will be felt for a very long time.  So thank you so much for that.  Well done! 

 
Second, I have been meaning to send you a note for a million years to thank you for another thing: the podcast from your November , 2011 event featuring Dan Siegel.  It truly has saved our family’s lives.  Our middle child – now in grade one – is the extremely shy child with an overly active ‘downstairs’ right brain, the 10% of the population that Dan spoke of.  Last year, after committing the sin of cheerfully announcing that we had registered her for an upcoming after-school gymnastics class and then witnessing her total destruction of our van interior from the comfort of her booster seat, I knew we needed help.  We truly were at a loss, as we knew there were things that she would enjoy and thrive in if she would just give them a try, but getting her in the door of any sort of organized ‘activity’ was, well, impossible.  (By the way I exaggerate not on the van – she kicked in the middle row seat! It remains maimed and backless to this day, a testament to her uniqueness.)  
 
In a state of overwhelm, I found your Dan Siegel podcast one night while surfing the web for solutions at 1 a.m.  When I wasn’t laughing my guts out, I was memorizing, memorizing, memorizing.   In the event you might be interested in hearing how this approach can be applied outside the pool party context, our application went something like this:  
 
The following week, gymnastics week one:  We’re on the wooden bench outside the glass wall of the lovely  community centre gymnastics gym, watching 50ish 5-8 year old girls – including her left-brained, happy-as-pie 7 year-old sister – flitting about, having the time of their lives.  There we sit, me with my arm around her, she in school clothes (gym strip too threatening), no pressure, just watching, cuddling, chit-chatting a bit, occasionally tapping on iPhone when bored.  
 
Week two:  Same place, same position, only she now donned in lovely new silver-speckled gymnastics suit.  Still pressed against mom, no pressure.  50 girls behind the glass still having the time of their lives, other moms looking at me like ‘I’ve got my problems but thank GOD I’m not dealing with that.’  Still no pressure to go in, in fact didn’t go in. 
 
Week three (this class we never attend is now getting expensive):  We find ourselves inside the gymnastics gym – she, I and her (misbehaving) 4 year-old brother.  17 year-old gymnastic instructors are unhappy (no parents allowed in the gym), but I firmly advise that I promised my daughter I’d stay, so we need to stay.  From the comfort of our corner of the gym, she starts poking on the nearby mats and equipment, then venturing out a further few feet, then a further few. When her class group makes their rounds to a nearby station, she joins on the periphery, sometimes joining in on the activity.     
 
Week four: She’s (cautiously) in! This is actually a bit fun! Mom still very near watching from behind the glass. 
 
Week five:  Gymnastics is the bestest thing ever! ‘Mom you don’t have to stay, you can go and have a coffee if you’d like...'
 
So there it was, success. We have since applied this ‘wholly nurturing while gently nudging’ approach to soccer and Girl Guides, with remarkable success.  You have to know my daughter’s temperament to fully realize what a success this is – we NEVER thought we’d see a day where she would be thriving in things like soccer and Girl Guides.  So... a (very long-winded) thank you for this.   
 
On a different note, we now have a new kindergartener with altogether different sensibilities... (sigh...) Think I’ll go online to see if there’s a Lynn Miller podcast available, I, unfortunately, couldn’t make that one.  (He’s chirpy and happy, he just gets a bit anxious about some things, like swim class, riding a 2-wheeler and life.)
 
Lest you think our family is filled with only highly sensitive children, I’ll pass along that our eldest, now 8, remains in some sort of category that is perhaps characteristic of many eldest kids (?): apparently confident, firmly planted in her left brain, left brain apparently severed from right.  We are handing the family finances over to her next year.
 

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