The Daily Gazette
The Locally Owned Voice Of The Capital Region
Judy Atchinson's A Stubborn Woman
by Judy Atchinson

A Stubborn Woman

A Daily Gazette community blog
QUEST leader's wanderings and musings

On the effects of toxic stress on kids

This rings a bell in my heart.

"Never Retreat

Never Explain

Get it done


Let them howl."

-Benjamin Jowett

Now-read-this: this is what I have been ranting about for years.

"Focus on Toxic Stress"

" A young child's body and brain may be damaged by too much exposure to stress hormones. Like cortisol and norcpinephrine. When a high level of stress is experienced at an early age it may actually reset the neurological and hormonal systems, permanently affecting children's brains and even their genes.

"Toxic stress is the heavy hand of early poverty, it sets the patterns of disappointment and deprivation that shape a life of limitation. The Academic Pediatrician Association called on doctors to take on poverty as a serious underlying threat to children's health.

"Dr. Bernard P. Dwyer says that after the first 3, 4, or 5 years if you have neglected that child's brain development, you can't go back. Almost 25% of children under 5 live below the poverty level. Families buying children, clothing, books and toys, footwear, fresh fruits and vegetables is a plus. Getting families above the poverty line makes the parents actually become better care-givers. And the focus has to be on giving families support in major aspects of their lives -- i.e. -- parenting, intervention in primary care -- universal pre-school.

"The economic case for investing in young children is made by Robert H. Dugger -- managing partner of Hanover Investment Group.

"There is no economic recovery strategy stronger than commiting to early childhood. Think of poverty as a disease thwarting growth and development, robbing children of the future, a future they might otherwise expect.

"Language deficit in poorer homes makes a gap in school achievement and ongoing success both in and out of school."

The New York Times-Times Talks

Perri Klauss M.D.

May 13,2013

"There should not be any particular teaching. Teaching is in each moment."

-- Shunryu Suzuki

I watched Wilbur rolling in the grass, tongue hanging out, moans and sighs coming from deep in his being and tail wagging even though all four legs are kicking the air while the body is squirming in glee on the ground. And I thought, "This is joy -- real gorgeous joy." And I thought, "I have never seen my children exhibit this total abandonment to happiness."

My kids only know concrete and walled off lawns and gardens. We once watched a hawk fly over our site -- doubtless looking for pigeons, and they reacted as if they were seeing an alien from another planet. And in a way they were. It's as if there are two planets, the planet of poverty and the planet of plenty.

What we need is a playground of dirt. Real dirt with weeds and trees from climbing and streams for messing in and shallow ponds for wading and catching tadpoles. And the most important thing of all no -- one saying, "eww, look how dirty you are." Because these adults equate good parenting with clean clothes and expensive sneakers. Mud pies were made for kids, as is snowball fights, and jumping into a big pile of leaves, and climbing trees. Even rolling down a big grass hill, and letting a praying mantis land in your cupped hands.

Very few of my kids have ever seen a butterfly let alone the Pileated Woodpeckers who live in Central Park. Cooking hotdogs and marshmellows on sticks over a camp fire as the moon rises, seems so simple, so so ordinary. But not to them. These things are more wondrous than all the video games and X Box products ever. Seeing a dog on the street and being told, "You can pet her or him, my dog loves kids." How much do the rest of us take for granted? Why even on Halloween, whole families join together and take the kids to the suburbs to Trick or Treat. Truly aliens in a strange land.

Community is not just your immediate neighborhood but anywhere you wander or roam. I am always inviting my readers to come by, most of you never take me up on that and what is much worse never reciprocate and invite us into your life, your neighborhood, your home. I remember taking some QUEST kids to the Hillside School Playground in Niskayuna and the thing that most impressed them, no fences, no gates that locked, and a janitor who let them in the school when they had to pee.

How is it that adults will not come to QUEST or allow their children to visit because, they say, the neighborhood is too turbulent and unsafe? One woman would not join my board because she claimed her husband did not want her in that area of town. (I kid you not, if I made that up, no one would believe it.)

Yet everyone seems to feel it is a fine and dandy place for all those who live there? No one says, "if it's not safe for me then it's not safe for any children." No one offers to take a child for a week or a weekend, or even one afternoon. And no one comes to QUEST to just help out and provide a child with 2 short hours of one on one mentoring? Has no one thought of these throw-away kids at all?

Sure from time to time someone shows up like my bucket drumming guy, who works with endless patience and perspicacity and treats these kids as if they are kids, any kids from anywhere and expecting concentration and hardwork in class so that actual progress can be made. And they (the kids) are living up to this and learning, really learning, about percussion and practice and playing a creative riff, and well you get the picture. It's a real class leading to the beginning of mastering an instrument.

Our ballet classes run the same, serious hard work leading to self knowledge and control of mind and body. These are attributes that which will further learning in any discipline. And my little divas are practicing plies and arabesques all over the parking lot. And this teacher goes way beyond just bringing a good and caring teacher, she has become a scavenger of bicycles. Roaming far and wide to pick up abandoned and abused bikes, putting them in her tiny car and bringing them home to clean up and repair. We are up to 14 bikes now and the kids ride them daily in the parking lot. Because again, bike riding is a discipline too, and getting the heart rate up is great for anyone. Physical activity, and good food, fresh fruit daily and learning with Beth (ballet teacher) overseeing the process of simple bike repair. Plus it is the responsiblity of the older children to help bring bikes up the stairs and to bring them back down when the day is done

"Don't Think: Look!"

-- Ludwig Wittgenstein

And may I add to that, look and act. Follow through. Be an example to your own children. Let your glow shine through as Chance would say. Chance being Latin Kings who volunteers to do heavy cleaning every week at QUEST.

And I don't think no one remembers, when I was at the library 2 weeks ago to attend a meeting I decided to renew my library card. And the librarian, a truly sweet lady, took my information and then looking at me said, "You don't remember me, do you?" And no, I did not; so many people pass through my life and I was sure I would have remembered a librarian. "My daughter came to you for community service many years ago," she said "she loved the experience, and some how we never made it back to thank you now, she never made that mistake again and pulled her life together afterwards. She is in college going to school, to be a social worker." "I will let her know I saw you, maybe we will stop by. Thank you so much for caring for my child."

See, you never know from which way the moment of simple gratitude comes, the mom's gratitude to me, and my reciprocal gratitude to the mom for remembering and reminding. So here I say, "Thank you, you made my day."

You see-

"Each moment is a place you've never been."

-- Mark Strand

Watched a man and his wheelchair come down Summit Avenue (a.k.a. Georgetta Dix Blvd.) and walking by his side a fluffy sweet Pomeranian.

To leave you with an Irish Blessing

God grant you to be as happy as the flowers in May.

P.S. For those of you who persist in telling me to be careful because the Feds are watching me, I remind you the only way the Feds would be watching me is if someone made a complaint from Schenectady straight into their ear. Maybe it's Schenectady I should be watching.

Enjoy this post? Share it!


There are currently no posts. Be the first to comment on this story.

columnists & blogs