Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

ECMMA: Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

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Movement Matters

After many years of making music with children, Eve Kodiak, M.M., became interested in the brain/body processes that underlie the learning process. As an Educational Kinesiologist, she now works with people of all ages, using music and developmental movement to create positive change. Eve can be found in her office at The Lydian Center for Innovative Medicine in Cambridge, MA, or at home in New Hampshire, writing and recording. Her CD/book sets include Rappin' on the Reflexes and Feelin' Free, which combine developmental movements with songs, raps, and narrations with music. Eve also performs and records as an improvising classical pianist. More information and articles on music and developmental movement may be found at www.evekodiak.com.


The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily promote official policy of ECMMA.

Tonight You Belong to Me: Conversing with the Dad

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I got an email from the dad who made the “Tonight You Belong To Me” video. (If you're just checking into this series for the first time, you might want to go back and read the last two posts).

It was a startling experience. We know that there are real people making these home videos on Youtube, people just like you and me. But I didn’t realize how much of a disconnect between knowing and knowing exists until that father’s name appeared in my website contact form.

It reminds me of a story told to me by a first grade teacher. She married over the summer, and returned to school with a new last name. A little boy stared at her and stared at her. Finally he burst out, “You look just like Miss Farnham!”

So the real person dad wrote me that his daughter loves fireworks, and that she would watch them all night if she could, and that he was trying to distract her so that she would go to sleep. He said that he found my piece a bit “silly” and was giving me the opportunity to modify it.

I did feel a bit silly. So I wrote right back and apologized for any misunderstanding my posts may have caused, and for not doing more research before I wrote them. He wrote right back and said, no harm. He told me that the video was made as something to send to friends and family back in the U.S. while they are living overseas, and it went viral.

It was a nice interchange, and he is clearly a person of integrity, and it felt good to realize that Mrs. Whosamawhatsis reallyis Miss Farnham, although I have to admit that, like the first-grader, I haven’t quite wrapped my mind around that concept.

So I took a couple of days and looked at the video again.

Watching in hindsight, I knew that I had imagined the story leading up to what I was seeing on the video. I had created my own story: the girl had been lying in bed, unable to sleep because she was afraid that the fireworks would come again. When in fact she had been standing on the porch, refusing to come in, wanting there to be more fireworks to see. My story had not been based on the facts; it based upon an assumption that turned out to be erroneous.

Making up our own stories based upon things we observe is something we tend to do a lot of. I attended a workshop last winter in Non-Violent Communication that pointed this out with an illuminating exercise. We were told to walk around the room, find people we didn’t know, and make two kinds of statements to them. First, we were to make an observation about something undeniable, something a camera could record. The other was to say something we assumed to be true about that data.

Three different people observed to me that I was wearing turquoise necklace. That was obvious. But their interpretations were more variable. One person said that I must have lived in the Southwest, which is true. Two people said that turquoise must be my birthstone, which is not true.

When I watch the video, I still see, in the little girl, the same reflex movements.So am I collecting actual data? Or am I making up stories based upon my own prejudices, stories that may or may not be true?

In my practice, I have found that the experiences parents say that their kids “love” are sometimes the ones that turn out to be frightening them. Movies. TV shows. Video games. Things with lights that flash or loud or compelling sounds. Like fireworks.

As I’ve written before, we are living modern lives in Stone-Age bodies. In nature, flashing lights and big booms usually mean something dangerous, something we need to watch. Fire. Lightning. Thunder. Avalanches. Bright lights catch our gaze and hold them; we have all heard the phrase “deer in the headlights” to describe that freeze response to a survival threat.

But young children can get mixed signals about these experiences. A movie is a treat! Fireworks are a celebration! Playing video games is a reward! If children are initially scared, the social context in which the scary thing is presented may cause them to override their visceral response. They turn the experience 180 degrees, and seek it out.

But because they have overridden their initial response to the danger component of the activity, they no longer have access to their instincts. Instincts warn us about danger – but they also tell us about pleasure. They let us know when enough is enough. Healthy instincts are a necessary part of self-regulation. People who are in touch with their instincts are less likely to engage in compulsive behavior.

So when a child just won’t let go, it is always worthwhile to watch for active reflexes. Because if there are, the child may be afraid – even though the child may be seeking out the frightening activity, and feel desolate when it is denied her.

I have to trust what I see in the child in the video. Not my story, just her movements – the compulsion she keeps returning to, the way she freezes the activity again and again, the way her eyes fixate, and once, roll up to the side – these are the bits of movement data that I collect that tell me what the brain is doing. And I know that when I do integrative activities with children, these movements often change. And so does their behavior.

I really like the dad I’ve been emailing with, and I hate to disagree with him at all. And, in my practice, I almost never outwardly disagree with parents, because I respect them so much, and because they are the ones on the front line.

And it’s not usually necessary to disagree with anyone. In my office, I don’t make up stories – I just watch movement, and find the ways to release whatever movements are stuck. Any talking I do is to help answer questions the parents may have, and to give them activities and suggestions to help their child maintain a positive trajectory.

But here, as a blogger, writing stories is my job. I have made many mistakes already, and I will probably make many more. I am glad to have the opportunity to revisit the video with better information, and uncover my own over-interpretations. But I have to stand by what I have observed in the child. It’s my data.

It’s complicated when kids are scared of stuff they seem to love. It’s hard to know what to do. But something as simple as gently touching the K-1 points between the pads on the balls of their feet (read Under the Volcano, Movement Matters, 8/26/11) can help a lot.

The web of relationships, compensations, and thought patterns that form around reflexive activity can be very complicated. But the actual reflex movement is very simple, and it is always fundamentally the same. And when you release the reflex, allowing that archetypal gesture to complete itself, the brain knows that the stress has gone away. That allows behavior to change.

And then, everyone – parent and child – has a better chance of a good night’s sleep.

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