My secret parenting hack...
I would like to say we have developed a specific special formula to parenting and have mastered it all when it comes to our kids, but I know you would not believe me... I would not believe me! I don't even have one single part of parenting my kids figured out at this point, but I love to learn about them everyday and figure out how I can help them become the best versions of themselves.
My secret parenting hack... there is NO magic hack.
My parenting back-story is long and complicated and I'll share it here eventually , but here is just a quick backstory for me, Kate, and my journey thus far. I have an undergraduate degree in FCS (Family Consumer Science) Education, which included a lot of child development courses and study, and a masters degree in Educational Technology. I taught middle school for nine years and was foster mom to an amazing, then teen, girl. Getting married later in life we wanted to start our family quickly and due to some medical challenges decided to pursue adoption and were matched with an sweet birth mom who chose us to parent her truly miraculous little boy. He had multiple open heart surgeries as a toddler and is now going into 1st grade healthy and strong. We also have an almost three year old biological daughter, who has a huge imagination.
My life before parenting (foster/adopt/birth), I thought I had this whole gig figured out because of all the research, reading, observing, and teaching I had done. It turns out NO ONE has this gig figured out because the secret is every single kid has some sort of special trait that is given them to help hone and grow the PARENT else it will drive them crazy! If you are like me you are reading about, researching, listening to podcasts, watching TEDtalks, going to seminars, talking to specialists, etc. all in hopes of figuring out what is the best thing for your child. I don't know if this trait in me is just a personality flaw, if it is my educational background, or if it is because my child had a "team" surrounding him his first three years of life that watched his every development and monitored him closely.
I am thankful for the "team" and also kind of resent that they were there all at once, it is a true dichotomy. I appreciated the guidance, but sometimes feel like all the guidance guided my son into needing a lot of guidance daily... wow you'd think I really love the word "guidance".
My son himself is a dichotomy. He is very smart, taught himself to read at 3, reads beyond his grade level, makes connections in his learning at very high levels, and can converse with adults better than peers. On the other hand he struggles with simple transitions, melts down when things do not go the way he wants or plans change, can't do many gross motor skills tasks his peers can , and can only handle short periods of open-ended play without direction.
He is the reason I started simplifying our play spaces and our home. I realized he did well when he had fewer choices, he was more creative and played longer, and was able to play alone AND pick up afterwards. Around the time his sister was born I reached back to my child-development training and pulled out many of the Montessori and Waldorf methods and as a result our home became more peaceful.
Now I am the first to admit we have a LONG way to go to continue simplifying. We still have screen time (although we have limited it over the years), my kids still know about Disney and Dreamworks, we have plastic toys and licensed toys, and I still have a mess to pick up sometimes. A trend I noticed is as we simplified toys, moved to wood toys, non-plastic, or non-battery operated toys my kids changed. When we hit a rough patch now one of the first moves I make is to remove all but the basic toys, minimize our play area (and home), and things seem to chill out again.
Kate and Caboodle originally started as I was making custom wood toys for my own kids and started making them for friends' children. They encouraged me to sell them and I loved the chance to find myself through creating again. I started making the wood toys that we couldn't afford from some of the Waldorf and Montessori name brands and love that I can offer them to others now.
As I started making toys I also started doing watercolor, drawing, and painting again and I love that I can incorporate them all together. In addition I have found that this artwork and creation for me is a type of play (but I have to balance that with rest). If you've ever read any Brene' Brown you'll recognize the quote "If we want to live a wholehearted life, we have to become intentional about cultivating rest and play, and we must work to let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self worth."
It is important for children AND adults to play, rest, and be creative and I love that I get to provide products that help inspire others to play and be creative!