Tag Archives: Parenting

Bravely

I cannot believe it’s already August. Yesterday marked the two week countdown for the first day of school. Today, my final shipment of homeschool supplies will arrive… UPS guy, I’m totally stalking the front door for you.

All summer we have gone on adventures, played outside, tried new foods, stayed up WAY too late and just generally had a lovely time. But since Liam starting Kindergarten, he’s elligible to spend these last two weeks of the summer attending Safety Town. Safety Town is a two week course for kiddos ages 4-6 {I only share this because I discovered that not every one has Safety Town in their state!}. They arrive every morning for a few hours of themed information on things like indoor safety {Don’t touch the chemicals or stove!}, meeting police officers, learning addresses and phone numbers… just general things that make our little people more aware of the world around us and empowered to protect themselves.

I remember Safety Town for myself and my brothers. My favorite part was always the to-scale town that was set out on the playground for us to ride trikes around. I loved those little buildings and imagined myself a very grown-up 5 year old that summer. Yesterday as we drove to the first session, I told Liam how much fun it was and how I still remember things I learned at Safety Town.

But upon check in, I realized that there are far more children in attendance that I’d thought there would be. On top of that, Liam isn’t in a class with anyone he knows. Yesterday was less than stellar for him. And me. I know exactly how he feels walking into a room where he knows no one. And I completely understand when we go to group events and he will not leave my side until he sees a person he knows, only to cling to that person for the entire event. I imagine that his stomach ties up in knots like mine does and my heart hurts for him.

So for the next two weeks, we are working on bravery. I ordered most of the books from this post by Carrots are Orange and they are already on their way to the library for me to pick up. I’m 33 years old and still have so much anxiety over social events, even to the point that I will “forget” to put them on my calendar… this is not what I want for my children. They may grow up to be shyer by nature and that is A-ok. Both of them already seem to be introverted like Matt and I {A characteristic I couldn’t be more grateful for! I don’t know what I would ever do if they thrived on social events!}. All this is wonderful and I think makes it even easier for me to understand why my children don’t run into a new social setting like many of their peers. It’s ok to be shy. It’s ok to not thrive on others’ energy. But it’s not ok to be miserable. I was always told to just “get over” my nervousness. But I never learned how. I learned how to cover it up, but I didn’t learn how to move past it.

Today’s goal for Liam was to learn the name of one child in his group. Tomorrow when I take him in, I’m going to check the name tag of the kiddo next to him… I’m told it’s Christopher. We are going to be meeting a lot of new friends this year with church and co-op and MOPS. By “we” I do actually mean Liam and I. We are both going to learn to be brave, but we won’t be alone… we are going to do it together, one new name at a time!

Retrospect Respect

A few weeks ago at my youngest brother’s soccer game, my father suddenly put me on the spot and asked if I appreciated him and my mother. Another soccer mom, whom I assume was having issues with what I call a ‘tude from one of her teenaged children leaned in to ask WHEN I realized I appreciated them.

Because my father was listening intently, I chose to be a smart alek with my response: “Of course! But I’d never tell them that while I was living at home… it would give them big heads and you know, we can’t have that!” Laughter from parents, everyone moved on in the conversation and I was left to contemplate how I really felt on the matter.

To be completely honest, I really started to appreciate and cultivate a deep respect for the sacrifices my parents made when I was in high school. Circumstances with Mom’s health and the later adoption of the aforementioned soccer-playing brother coupled with the fact that I was desiring the days when I could be a mother really opened my eyes to all they did. This, of course, does not mean that my relationship with my parents was Duggar perfect. Nope. While I appreciated my parents, we still butted heads because we were humans with different opinions.

But the point is that during this time, I saw what parents do for their small children not only by watching my parents care for that sweet little baby, but through my own involvement with him. My mother’s health was at a high point during the time of the adoption, but in the years shortly after things really suffered. I spent a lot of time and energy caring for my brother like a parent would because of the situation I wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to since my next youngest brother is only 2 and a half years apart from me.

All the time I spent with him, going through the functions of a parent, I bonded with the little guy. I knew what it was like to love a child so much it hurt long before we even thought about starting our own family. I knew what it was like to try to communicate with a child who didn’t understand. I knew exactly how challenging two and three year olds (and let’s face it, 4 year olds, 5 year olds… all the ages!) are. I understood the depth of emotions and how we do anything to help our children.

As I’ve grown as an individual and as a parent, my appreciation for my parents have definitely deepened. I know now what a sacrifice it is to push through a chronic illness. I understand how difficult it to parent children when your husband’s schedule isn’t a normal 9-5. I get why she often snapped at me when I asked questions when she was tired or in pain. I understand my father’s stress over providing for the family on an average income. But I understand this only as I have experienced… not exactly how my parents felt in their own situations.

There are facets of parenting that I knew would be hard going into them and there still things I have yet to discover. If I could answer my dad’s question all over again I’d say something different. I’d say that I appreciated them as a teenager, but I didn’t get it. I’d say that I thought I understood their sacrifices and appreciated their willingness to do so, but until I stood in their shoes I couldn’t really comprehend it. And then, I’d look at that mother and tell her that appreciation doesn’t look the same for every child; and not every child will feel the need to verbalize their feelings or even act like they are appreciative, but it’s there. 

The fab five – stages so far

The Fab Five Stages So Far

Welcome to the May 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Ages and Stages

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have talked about their children’s most rewarding and most challenging developmental periods. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Natural Parents Network: The Fab Five Stages So Far
I have often heard older, wiser mothers tell me that “each stage will be a new favorite” and while I have loved each moment a little more than the last, there are stages that stand out to me as the ones I never want to forget. Liam will be 5 this summer and Sylvi just turned 3, so I don’t have a huge span to draw from, but these are the stages that when my children are all grown up and having their own, I hope to be able to impart my delight for these moments that may seem so small and fleeting, but are just so precious. I cannot say there is one stage that rises above the rest, but I can narrow the choices down to five favorites.

The hidden weeks

Oh my. For me, these weeks were 13-18/20 of my pregnancies. I could feel the baby fluttering and moving, but no one else could. For those weeks, the baby was allllllll mine. My belly wasn’t big enough that people felt the need to touch or comment, but there was enough that at night, I’d lie on the couch and rub it, delighting in the little “bubbles” of movement after. Once these weeks passed, we knew baby’s gender and name. After that point, the baby was property of the world (ok, I exaggerate, but really…people really seem to feel that way about babies!) and I had to start sharing. So to me, those precious moments when I was the only one in baby’s world, those were a favorite.

Continue reading at Natural Parents Network ››

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon May 13 with all the carnival links.)

  • When Three-Year-Olds Stand Up For Themselves — Parenting Expert Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. at her blog, Parental Intelligence, enjoys the stage when three-year-olds dramatically wow their parents with their strong sense of self.
  • This too shall pass — In the beginning, everything seems so overwhelming. Amanda at My Life in a Nutshell looks at the stages of the first 1.5 years of her daughter’s life and explains how nothing is ever static and everything changes – the good and the bad.
  • Age 5 – Is It Really A Golden Period? — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the developmental norms for the five-year-old set and muses over if this age really is the ‘golden period.’
  • How much do you explain to your preschooler when crime touches close to home? — When tragedy strikes someone your preschooler knows, Nathalie at Kampuchea Crossings wonders how parents can best help young children cope.
  • Thoughts on ToddlerwearingThat Mama Gretchen‘s babywearing days are over, we’re living it up in the toddlerwearing days now!
  • Parenting Challenges—Almost a man — Survivor at Surviving Mexico talks about leaving childhood behind as her son turns 12.
  • How Child Development Works – Competence Builds Competences — Debbie at Equipped Family shares how each stage of childhood builds on the next. Focus on doing the current stage reasonably well and success will breed success!
  • Making Space — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is adjusting her thinking and making room for her babies to stay near her.
  • The Best Parenting Resources for Parents of Toddlers — Toddlers can be so challenging. Not only are they learning how to exert their independence, but they simply do not have the developmental ability to be calm and logical when they are frustrated. It’s the nature of the beast. I mean … the toddler. Here are Dionna at Code Name: Mama‘s favorite books and articles about parenting a toddler.
  • The Fab Five Stages so Far — Laura from Pug in the Kitchen couldn’t choose just one stage for this carnival and is sharing her top five favorite stages in the young lives of her son and daughter at Natural Parents Network.
  • The best parts of ages 0-6 — Lauren at Hobo Mama gives a breakdown of what to expect and what to cherish in each year.
  • Lessons from Parenting a Three-Year-Old — Ana and Niko at Panda & Ananaso are quickly approaching the end of an era — toddlerhood. She shares some of her thoughts on the last two years and some tips on parenting through a time rife with change.
  • Feeling Needed — Jorje of Momma Jorje ponders which developmental stage is her favorite and why. She bares it for us, seemingly without fear of judgment. You might be surprised by her answer!

Ordinary days

As I sit here typing, my children are playing house. Rather, they are playing “grocery shopping as a family” which I find amusing since I think we’ve only grocery shopped a handful of time as a family in the last 4 years… so their imaginary play is really digging deep today! My house is clean, laundry is caught up – essentially this day is perfect.

Now, before you unfollow this blog because I dared to say these things, please understand this: today is rare. And I am soaking it up. Why? Because I have small children. And a pug (that addition should definitely give me bonus points in my housekeeping). My life is not like this more than a few days out of the month. The other days? Well, either the laundry is caught up or the house is.  I can’t keep it all under control. I’m only one person and truthfully, I still spend a large percentage of my day helping someone in the potty (even the pug). So every day there are new challenges, new messes and new ways to feel that I am a giant failure. Especially since I have always been a very fussy housekeeper. 9.5 weeks after we said “I do”, I completely flipped out on my husband for wearing his grassy shoes in the house, walking up the white-carpeted stairs, into our bedroom and leaving them lay on the closet floor shedding grass clippings like a hippie. Did I overreact? Absolutely. But just so you know, we now have a doormat and a boot tray.

But I guess the point to this post is that in the past few years, I’ve learned to embrace and even welcome the chaos that comes with small children. Gosh. The chaos that comes with life! There are nights that I got to bed with the dishes undone because I am just too tired. I will do them in the morning. Some nights, I just want to hang out with my husband and not fold laundry. So I kick the toys that always gravitate to the living room aside and we watch a movie. I force myself to sit still and just BE. The laundry will not actually grow legs and leave the house in protest of wrinkles. But his need for companionship is far greater than my need for tidiness.

Recently, I read this lovely post by a sweet mama in Oklahoma:

“I chose to pursue motherhood. I chose to forego a career and become a stay-at-home wife and mom. I chose to homeschool….  So why in the world was I acting surprised everytime my kids ate and the kitchen table was covered with food and sticky fingerprints? Why did I sigh every time we decided to go somewhere and I had to pack diaper bags and load carseats? When was I going to stop talking about how many (or how few) hours of sleep I had received the night before? How long was I planning on exclaiming over how many times a day I had to sweep the kitchen floor?”
 

I read her post and laughed and laughed. I really didn’t know that children don’t sleep. I was under the impression that the “2 am feeding” was an urban myth created for the sake of movies and story books. For the record, I don’t know that we’ve ever had a 2 am feeding. But we have had the 1130pm-1am-115am-245am-oh-for-the-love-of-all-that-is-holy-WHY-is-she-awake-again-5am feedings. I knew kids were messy. I knew kids needed to be taught everything and come with far more accessories than one ever could imagine. I was aware that I’d have to remind myself to close the bathroom door when I’m outside the home because not everyone is going to come in as me for the “42 Ironman” and can’t reach the door handle. And I knew how much I’d loathe carseats. But I am the daughter of a policeman and I follow the very letter of the law.

I just stood in the kitchen while my 2 and half year old princess debated over which piece of peanut butter sandwich left over from the lunch she ran off in the middle of she was going to eat. It is remarkable how enormous this decision is to a child. I stood there and waited until she chose. And then the words “don’t make a mess” came out of my mouth as she skipped away. Why do I still say that? After almost 5 years of parenting these children, I know they make messes. It inherent to this season of life and yet I find myself admonishing them to be “neater”.

It’s my job right now to teach her and her brother how to be “neater”, but it is also my job to watch the standards I set. In 20 years, give or take, they will each (hopefully) have their own homes and families. By that time, I’ll have a clean home every day. My laundry will not mock me from the pile in the basement. And I’ll be sleeping through the night without someone throwing their lovie and batman pillow on my head as they crawl in to snuggle. My children will not remember the days of constant messes. They won’t remember me sitting the piles of laundry and crying because I’m just too tired from the night before to even think about where to begin. They will remember the example I set for them as I go about caring for the home and my family. And I don’t want my daughter to sit in her home, with her babies wondering how she will survive these years. I don’t want my son to come home and think his wife is a failure because she couldn’t balance the babies and house and her mental health.

These days of messy counters, Lego piles, princess dresses and potty helpers are so short. I will always remember them and I honestly pray that I don’t forget how I felt as a new mother, as a mother grieving the loss of a baby, as a mother wondering where her toddler got so much energy when the baby kept the house awake every night. When my memory fades, there are photos. Photos of the messes, the laundry that is out of control, the toy explosion, the orange crayon all. over. the. couch. I am so imperfect and I am totally ok with it. Alright, maybe not totally, but I am embracing it… one disaster at a time. :)

 

 

Books for the Beginning

Since our local summer reading program began this week, this seems like the appropriate time to do a book series I’ve been wanting to do for a while!  Today, I’m going to introduce you to the favorite books and series my kids loved that first year of life.  I still read them now even though Liam is almost to a very grown-up four… their edges are worn and dog-eared and I have most of them memorized.  But these are the books I will save for the grandchildren and read to them with fond memories of snuggling their parents close and whispering “one berry, two berry…”

I started collecting the Sandra Boynton books while pregnant with Liam. I had the book A is for Angry as a child and still love it, so I knew we needed more in our home. I have read The Going to Bed Book on a near nightly basis for almost 4 years.  Hippos Go Beserk was Matt’s story to read, though… no one yells the big line like he does :)  My personal favorites then are Blue Hat, Green Hat, But Not the Hippopotamus and Moo, Baa, LA LA LA, though.

Both kids have loved the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear and therefore we have 2 copies of the book and a couple companion books. Liam loved Is Your Mama a Llama? but Sylvi won’t even let me past the first 2 pages.  Apparently she isn’t concerned about whose mama is whose.  Even though they had differing opinions on that one, they have both loved The Very Hungry Caterpillar, A Color of His Own and My First Winnie-the-Pooh.

Colors, My Nose, My Toes and Me and My Little Animal Book are three titles that even Liam still loves.  I’m a huge fan and if I attend a book shower for a baby, these are ones I usually bring.  Bright colors, great pictures and interaction make these books winners!

The Napping House, Courdroy, Curious George and Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes are books that we loved as early as 6 months.  I read longer books little by little with my kiddos so they eventually learn to hold their attention for the entire book.

When Sylvi was born, I used that as an excuse to add more books and we started into the In My… Series.  We have quite a few of the titles and they are so sweet and fun to add in the finger puppet, too.  Lastly, Good Night Gorilla and Jamberry were added to our collection when Sylvi was a few months old and they continue to be nightly reads.  For some reason, she thinks the bear in Jamberry is hysterical and considering how much she loves her berries, I think this book will be around for a long time! :)

What about you?  Do you have any essential books for your little ones?

Enough.

Enough.  Just enough.  Yesterday could have been deemed the Apocalypse with the release of the newest Time magazine cover.  I’m not one for confrontation, so I just read and didn’t comment.  Yes, you are more than welcome to call me a wimp.  However, this morning, I was talking about the whole drama with a friend during a play date and felt the need to get this out.  This article could have been an amazing, well-written piece on the choices some parents make to keep their children close to them, regardless of the convience for them.  It could have raised awareness for breastfeeding and helped push past the stigma of nursing an older child.

Instead, this article appears to have been written to do 3 things: create yet another mom-to-mom battle (Are You Mom Enough? is the official title of the piece.), create the notion that parents who choose to parent their children in an attached method are nut jobs and create a windfall of magazine sales.  So far, I’d say all 3 goals have been met.  So pardon me while I address each one.

To begin with, do we really need another reason for competition between moms?  I submit that we do not.  What you think about my parenting decisions is none of my business.  I don’t need to know.  I don’t care if you think I should have traded in my boobs for bottles months ago.  Quite frankly, I don’t see why you care… they’re not yours… you aren’t the one feeding my child.  Just a thought.  Additionally, breastfeeding gets a bad rap because of covers like this.  If you go to the actual write up on the behind the scenes in Time, you’ll see photos of gorgeous, comfortable, loving mothers (including the cover model, Jamie Lynne) with their children.  These women, participated in the shoot because they desired to raise awareness about the normalcy of breastfeeding and how does go hand in hand with attachment parenting.  Not because they felt like being treated like an oddity.  Breastfeeding doesn’t work for everyone’s family.  It didn’t work for us when Liam was little.  I wanted it to, but it didn’t.  It didn’t work because I didn’t have any tools, information or support.  I though that all you had to do was drink lots of water and buy a supportive bra… nature would do the rest.  In my case, nature did not even try to do the rest.  With Sylvi, I set micro goals of getting through the first month, then the first 6 weeks, then the first 3 months and so on.  I did not make a plan other than to try and make sure she was healthy and growing.  This time, I had the support and the education.  And I wasn’t afraid of failure.  This time, I would have happily participated in a campaign to raise awareness for breastfeeding!

Attachment parenting is far more natural than people realize.  ”The essence of Attachment Parenting is about forming and nurturing strong connections between parents and their children. Attachment Parenting challenges us as parents to treat our children with kindness, respect and dignity, and to model in our interactions with them the way we’d like them to interact with others.”  Please, I ask you, tell me how this would drive someone to an extreme.  AP is something that seems freakish because our society doesn’t want to slow down and listen to our children.  We want them to hurry through their development and meet the next standard.  We want then to grow up so we can move on with life and get out of this inconvenient stage.  We are taught that our children should perform and be perfect, when we ourselves are not perfect.  AP isn’t about meeting a set of standards or following a rule book of crunchiness… one of my closest friends is an excellent example of AP; she co-sleeps, responds with more sensitivity than you would imagine possible, and respects her children’s individual needs both emotionally and physically.  She doesn’t breastfeed.  She has a situation that doesn’t make it practical for her to do so; instead she bottle feeds with more care and attention than most women I’ve ever watched.  Even though we don’t see eye to eye on many issues, her parenting challenges me everyday to be a better, more sensitive parent to my children by listening to them and truly understanding their needs.

Sensationalism.  Money.  Sales.  Quarterly goals.  Whatever the reason for presenting this article the way that they chose to, for shame!  Time magazine should be ashamed of their editing, their focus and their manners for creating a hailstorm of ignorance surrounding parenting of the attached variety.  I’m grateful that Dionna Ford of Code Name: Mama chose to participate in not only the photo shoot, but also several interviews by her local media.  I’m grateful for the Natural Parents Network for helping to educate and support parents who desire to parent their children as closely as they can.  I’m so grateful for the La Leche League International and Certified Lactation Consultants… without them, my second breastfeeding experience would have also been a loss.

When I first heard about this article, I was so excited.  I could hardly wait to get my hands on a copy of Time.  Yesterday, I was sad and disappointed.  Today, I can see this as a positive as so many people are starting to ask questions.  I can only hope that they keep asking and find the answers that make sense for them… that’s why groups like Natural Parents Network, La Leche and others exist… to take the mystery out while simultaneously creating a community of support for mothers, fathers and children.  In the end, we are all “mom enough” because we care enough to give up ourselves for our children… let’s just not start a fight about what methods we employ to achieve that goal.