I had a dream that I was giving one of our child care staff her annual performance review. I gave her a mirror and asked her to tell me what she saw. She looked away, tried putting it down, she looked at me but would not look into her own eyes. I told her what I saw; a beautiful, caring, vibrant woman passionate about children & their play. She just looked at me and began to cry.
As dreams usually do, it must relate to me being challenged to look into a mirror and say “I love you”. I’ve tried and found it to be very unnerving. I find it natural to love children, and most people actually, but to compliment myself as I would a best friend, it just felt so contrived & fake.
The dilemma is that if you don’t take care/love yourself first you won’t be able to take care of others. Think about pre- airline flight announcements; “In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.”
On each flight I hear this I pause & think how hard this would be to fasten my own mask before I put my child’s on, but I realize the practical reasons for this, but still, it would be a tough decision.
Ok then, listen up, why is it so hard for us Early Childhood Educators (ECE) to understand that we need to take care of ourselves if we are going to be effective, positive, life shapers of children?
1. Kick the drama to the bottom of the stairs. Walk away from gossip, pass along parent complaints to administration, research & read to learn about the “big picture” surrounding the field of Early Childhood Education.
2. Cocoon yourself with positive Surround yourself with positive people. This includes social media. If someone is a chronic complainer protect yourself. It’s easier to be pulled down than to pull someone up. I love positive quotes as daily mantras. Whether it be post it notes, screen savers, or a book mark put intentional positive images around you. Nest in your cherished items that carry happy memories. I carry a cork on my key chain from a wine enjoyed in France. (The smell has worn off… darn)
3. Sprinkle kindness like confetti When I think of something “that pink shirt is her colour” I say it out loud. Smiling is the surest way to get a return happy feeling.
4. Fake it ‘till you make it I believe in authenticity & all that, but I also know that by going through the motions repeatedly I will begin to feel it, much like riding the stationary bike at the gym. Faking the biking experience, but the results are real.
5. Princess theory Have a dream/vision and share it. It’s the girl who will one day live happily ever after. What does your happily ever after look like? Who, how and what do you need to get there? By sharing your dream with those whom you trust will encourage & move you to that “happy place”.
6. Be grateful for coffee Notice the little things that are daily gifts. Slow down, slow down, slow down. Take lots of pictures, of things that touch your heart & display them purely for your own pleasure. Blow them up really big or crop them really small & put them where you’ll see them (I have them in my shoe closet & bathroom counter).
7. No me bashing allowed Stop publically criticizing any aspect of who you are. Would you speak about your best friend that way? Send yourself positive messages.
8. Friday dance parties Fill your mind with positive. I limit the negative images going in to it. Balance the need to know what’s going on in the world to seeing violent streaming of ISIS youtube videos. Turn up the music.
9. Sleeping In Forget giving staff a raise, what we need is nap with the kids! If that’s not possible getting uninterrupted eight hours is like my rocket fuel combined with coffee (see #6) and I’m unstoppable.
Happiness? It comes from the heart. Take care of that heart and mind beautiful girl. You are as worthy as the children you believe in.