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Posts Tagged ‘preschooler emotions’

Caleb and I recently followed Ben on his 16-day work trip to Switzerland and USA.

It was an important family trip for us after 10 months of being in and out of doctors’ clinics and multiple scans following my surgery last June where I had one breast removed and reconstructive surgery following a breast cancer diagnosis. I thank God that I am well and was ready for my big trip.

As Ben’s work locations were in two rather un-touristy towns, I packed several small travel toys and activities for some afternoons where I might just want to veg out in the hotel room when Ben was at work.

I wrote out a travel checklist to remind myself of various things to pack into our luggage.

Caleb, who loves to be involved in everything, saw my list and decided to start his own travel checklist.

He followed me around the house, asking me how to spell words that he added to his list.

When he reached item #24 on his list, he told me, “Remember to bring Joy.”

“Bring what?” I asked as I busied with packing his clothes and toys.

“Being Joy…you know Joy? Joy in your heart,” he said.

I paused from my busy bee state and looked up. “Wow…,” I said. “Okay, we will bring Joy.”

Caleb travel list

“And don’t forget me,” Caleb said as he added his own name to his packing list. “We’ll also bring God and Jesus,” he said, adding two more names to his list.

And so we did.

We had a free and easy, chilled out vacation.

Caleb St Galen

Caleb and I spent a morning playing in a patch of residual snow outside our hotel.

An afternoon in the bookstore when it was too chilly to be outdoors.

Caleb snow.png

And other simple pleasures.

And we were filled with joy in our hearts.

Caleb&Em.png

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Caleb’s just turned 6! And he’s grown by leaps and bounds in the past year, from skills to perspectives, resilience to new focus.

6th-birthday

1.      Ditching the Wheels, Making a Splash

Caleb has been cycling on his 4-wheels bicycle since 3/4 years old. Just past his 5th birthday, he decided, rather nonchalantly, that he wanted to ditch the two training wheels and cycle on two wheels. He wobbled on his first attempt along the road outside our home. On his second try, a few minutes later, he steadied up and took off!

Next, he decided to try swimming without his swim-jacket. After a few kicks and splashes with Ben, he started diving into the pool swim-jacketless. That he had crossed these big milestones without cajoling or expectation made them that much sweeter to see.

A few months later, he started to bathe himself on a few occasions and then consistently clean up after himself after his big business.

It’s been a treat to watch him leap from one milestone to another, and wonder what he will do next.

 2.      Wielding lightsabers & Lego Force through the Dark Side

On 1st June last year, midway through 5 years old, Caleb had to grow up rather quickly when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. As his full-time caregiver, I had to learn to let go of him for stretches of time as I went through surgery and chemotherapy. He also had new routines to get used to without me being his constant, like my dad taking over ferrying him to and from kindergarten.

Thanks to the combination of Star Wars and Lego, Caleb’s love of Star Wars turned him into an adapt master-builder which saw us through my wilderness period (aka the Dark Side) when I stayed home through stretches of time.

He built his way through 2000-piece Lego structures, from the Millenium Falcon to Tie Striker to A-Wing Fighter and various other spaceships whose names I cannot remember.

 

Star Wars with Angel.png

With God-sister Angel on their Monday playdates which my dearest friend Gail started during my chemotherapy months

 

 3.      Not my Hongpao!

A couple of days back, a good friend sent me a blog link for a friend’s 7-year old daughter Janelle who has a rare heart condition and is in need of a heart transplant. The cost of the surgery and health complications had led to ballooning expenses and they were trying to raise funds to cover cost.

Ben and I thought it would be a good life lesson to use to teach Caleb about helping others in need.

Yesterday morning, when I was still half-sleep, I heard Ben talking to Caleb, “Would you like to give $100 of your hongpao money to help Janelle? Papa and Mummy will give $500.”

“What? Not my hongpao money!” I heard Caleb protest before I fell back into sleep.

An hour later, over breakfast, Ben said, “Did you hear what he said?”

“Yah,” I muttered. “He doesn’t want to give his hongpao money.”

“No, he did,” Ben said. “He decided that we give $100 and he give his $600 hongpao money.”

My eyes opened wide and my heart swelled in a proud parent moment. He had gone from initially objecting to reflecting upon it and then deciding to give up his hongpao money on his own free will.  

Later, that day, when he was building his Star Wars Lego set, a Christmas present from auntie Jing Siew, I gave him a cuddle and said, “Do you know why I am so proud of you?”

“Don’t know,” he said.

“You did something amazing this morning, remember?”

“Forgot already,” he said, focused on his Lego.

“Remember you gave something up?”

“Oh yah, that,” he said, “a lot of money.”

And that was that. A significant milestone crossed in his nonchalant way.

 

Related Link:

Help Fund Janelle’s VAD and heart transplant

Inside Out Kid #3: Mummy, You can take out your Pretend Hair at Home

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Caleb would usually have “sleepovers” in my bedroom a few nights a week. It was a treat for him because we would play board games before bed, I would read him books and he got to sleep later, like a real sleepover party.

During my 9-day stay in hospital following the mastectomy and reconstruction surgery, Caleb spent most of his time with my parents ie. his grandparents, and missed his sleepovers with me terribly.

Even after I got home, we did not resume his sleepovers in my room for a while. He is a roller when he sleeps. I could not risk him accidentally kicking me or rolling onto me.

About two weeks after I had been home from hospital, I heard a wailing downstairs in Caleb’s bedroom when my mum was trying to put him to bed. After it had gone on for some time, I went down to see what was happening.

Caleb was standing a foot away from his bed, refusing to get on. His eyes were red from crying and he was at the end of making a long teary protest speech when I walked in. “…I’ve spent enough time with Grandma. I’m not getting into bed anymore until I sleep with Mummy again. I want to be with Mummy till infinity!” And then he broke down inconsolably.

My heart broke.

But it wasn’t the right time to give in because it might send the wrong message that a protest speech would get him what he wanted. I spent some time placating him and eventually got him into his bed.

That night, Ben and I discussed about re-starting Caleb’s sleepovers in our bedroom. But it would need to come with some temporary rules.

Usually, he would climb onto me and hug me to sleep. Then, I would transfer him onto the giant cushion on the floor next to me. In the wee hours of the morning, half awake, he would automatically climb onto me, hug me like a koala bear and fall back to sleep again.

That had to change temporarily till I recovered from my surgery wounds.

So, we worked out a couple of new rules:

#1 – Caleb could only sleep on Papa’s side of the bed.  

That meant that Ben and I had to switch the sides of the bed that we normally slept so that Caleb would be next to him, not me. I moved to the right side of the bed and Ben to the left.

#2 – We built a wall of pillows which divided our bed into two. Caleb had to stay on the other side. And he could not sleep on me like a baby koala for the next few weeks.

We pilot-tested the next night. In the wee hours of the night, Caleb automatically climbed up to my side of the bed and slept on Ben. The pillow wall stayed intact and we were all systems go for his regular sleepovers again.

kingcaleb

Goofing it up in my room during a quiet day at home

 

With my chemo-cycles now, we’ve still kept some of these temporary rules. For every 1st week of a new chemo cycle, Caleb has to forgo any sleepovers in my room. Given the amount of medicine pumped into me at each chemo/post-op session, I abstain from kissing him for a week till I flush out all the chemicals from my body. My oncologist said it usually takes two days to flush it out of the system but I prefer to buffer it up to a week where Caleb is concerned. Once that week passes, my routine with Caleb goes back to normal and I give him infinity kisses till he begs me to stop.

That said, I have explained to him that I cannot be with him till infinity because one day I will grow old and no longer be around. But I tell him that we have the assurance of God’s Word in the Bible that we will eventually be together in eternity in Heaven.

And Eternity is better than Infinity and beyond.

Related Links:

Inside-Out Kid #5 – “My Mummy is a Botak Head! But she covered it up.”

God Knows Leh #10 – Three Wise Women with Gifts of Frankessence, Mastec & Go

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Over the past 2 months or so, I’ve been finding and stumbling upon ways to help my 5-year old cope with my breast cancer diagnosis, surgery and recuperation period and now chemo and post-op treatment.

I found the 6 best things that have worked well with him to date:

1. Preparing your Kid in Advance

From the moment I received my diagnosis, I spoke to Caleb about it and prepared him for my upcoming surgery. All in age-appropriate terms.

“Mummy will need to go for surgery and stay in hospital for a week or so. The doctor will cut out the bad cells which are making me sick. I will be well after that.”

I also prepared him for my hair loss from chemotherapy so he wasn’t afraid or confused when I went bald.

I spoke to him several times and answered all his questions about it so he had an understanding of what was to come.

 

2. Keeping to routine

As it was during the month-long June holidays when I was in hospital and then recuperating at home, I kept Caleb to a fixed routine for the entire month. He went to Chinese enrichment class for 3 hours daily in the mornings (similar length of time as his Kindy) and visited me in hospital in the afternoons.

He also continued his gym, taekwondo classes and Sunday School.

 

3. Finding something he could latch onto

Ben bought a few big Star Wars Lego sets, which Caleb built in my hospital room every day. It was the thing he looked forward to doing when he visited me daily, along with us watching a Pixar or Disney movie together.

My mum bought him a junior monopoly set which he loved. That became his game with grandpa every day for my 9 days stay in hospital.

Interestingly enough, the moment I returned home from hospital, he stopped playing monopoly and switched to building Lego in my bedroom while I rested.

With Christopher

Godbrother Christopher, who was supposed to be studying for PSLE, came over to give Caleb a Superman Lift-off

 

4. Letting him have a voice

Caleb was very chatty with friends who visited me in hospital if he wasn’t in the middle of a movie.

When my friend Hwee visited me the day after my surgery, he introduced her to my hospital room because he was so familiar with every nook and corner.

He greeted Hwee with, “Come, I show you my mummy’s urine packet!”

Fortunately, Hwee is very well acquainted with Caleb’s personality from all the anecdotes I’ve shared with her.

She very sportingly followed him as he led her to the left side of my bed and obliged when he asked to her squat down to get acquainted with my urine packet.

“I feel like our friendship has just moved to a more intimate level,” I told Hwee.

with Angel & Christopher

Having a playdate with God sister Angelina and God brother Christopher

 

Two days into visiting me, Caleb met the lift attendant when he and his grandparents were on the way up to my ward. Someone before then had pressed all the lift buttons so the lift attendant came in and dis-enabled the buttons. My dad told me that Caleb watched intently as the lighted buttons all went off.

“How did you do that?” He asked the lift attendant.

Amazingly, the lift attendant taught him.

The next day, armed with his newfound knowledge, he put it to use.

They pressed the 10th floor to where my ward was. My mum then pressed level 2 because she wanted to go buy lunch at the food court.

Caleb did not want the lift to stop because he had to run to my toilet. He dis-engaged the 2nd floor stop so the lift went straight up to my floor!

Unfortunately he applied his newfound knowledge the next day too, which stopped a nurse going to another floor.

After I explained to him that he shouldn’t be stopping other people from going to their floors, he settled into a more lift passenger friendly routine.

My parents told me that he took on the role of a lift attendant. He asked every person who came into the lift where they were going. He pressed the lift buttons for them, and pressed door open and door close for them.  He also engaged some of them in conversation. “I’m visiting my Mummy. Who are you visiting?”

 

5. Informing his Kindergarten

Once Caleb returned to Kindergarten, I notified Caleb’s teachers about my situation and sought their help to keep a close eye on him through this period, especially if he had any emotional issues in class.

His teachers got his class to pray for me and also read him stories which helped him relate to my situation. His teacher also called me a few times to update me on how he was doing in class. I was relieved to hear that he was very settled in and happy in class and had in fact matured even more in his social interactions with his classmates during this time.

 

6. Encouraging Expression of Emotion & Openness 

I reminded Caleb several times that it was fine for him to tell me how he felt. Caleb’s Inside-Out board helped him express his feelings well in the first week I returned home.

For the next couple of weeks, he also had at least one emotional outburst a day on something seemingly unrelated where he became angry or sad. I just let him get it out of his system and he was fine after.

I knew he was expressing and saying what was on his mind (in a healthy way) when I sent him to Kindy for the first time in 7 weeks since my surgery.

When I reached the drop-off point for him to enter the Kindy gate, the staff opened the door for him to get out. The first thing he said to her was, “My Mummy is a Botak Head. But you cannot see because she covered it up!”

Later, when he returned home, I spoke to him about it. “Caleb, so have you told everyone that Mummy is a Botak Head?”

“Only that teacher (at the drop off point), my class teacher and ….my whole class.

“Oh, that’s all?” I said.

“Yah, that’s all,” he said.

Well, that was definitely all.

 

Related Links:

Inside-Out Kid #4 – I’m Happy & Loving You! The Inside-Out Board

Inside-Out Kid #3 – Mummy, you can take out your Pretend Hair at Home

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Prior to my mastectomy and reconstruction surgery, I bought 2 things to prepare Caleb for my recuperation time at home – signage for my bedroom door.

One was a small crayola board which I had planned to stick on my bedroom door. I told Caleb that if I needed to rest, I would write, “Sleeping. Don’t come in.”

He had a better idea – if I was sleeping, I should just draw a face with eyes closed.

“I like that. And I’ll add ‘zzz’ coming out from the mouth,” I said.

And if I was awake, he wanted me to draw a face with eyes open. “And we add ‘ooo’ coming out of the mouth,” he added.

But that plan changed when he fell in love with a door hanger I bought. It has Singlish (Singapore English) on it and also our family name on it leh.

 

So, that became the official sign on my bedroom door on whether I needed alone-time to rest and he could come in or not.

That was when I decided to turn the crayola board into Caleb’s Inside-out board, as inspired by the Disney Pixar movie Inside Out, the brilliant movie which gives an amazing sight into a child’s emotions.

“Caleb, you can draw how you feel on this board to tell me if you are happy, angry or sad, ok?

He liked the movie and having the board named after him appealed to him.

On the first day that I returned home from hospital, I asked Caleb to draw how he felt about me returning home.

He drew a face enveloped in a red heart.

Inside Out Board Day 1

“That’s nice,” I said. “What does this mean?”

“It means I’m happy and loving you, Mummy!”

 

On Day 2, he was sad because he made a tactical error in Othello which reversed his winning game. He drew a sad face followed by an angry face. Then, he went to a corner to sulk.

“So today is a sad and angry,” I said.

“Wait five minutes,” he said. “I think I will have a happy face.”

And he did.

Inside Out Board-Day2.png

And so, the first week of me returning home from hospital saw Caleb go through a myriad of emotions through the week.

On day 7, when I felt much better, I spent a big part of the day with Caleb. And when the day came to an end, he drew how he felt.

It brought a big dimpled smile to my face.

Inside Out Board.png

Related Posts:

Inside-Out Kid #2- It’s not fair, I didn’t want you to be in Hospital! 

God Knows Leh #8- When My Tummy was Tucked and Promoted to Left Breast

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