*That* Kid

Have you ever noticed how something seemingly small – a slight remark, a subtle expression, a wave of a hand – has the power to take you from a peak to a valley almost instantly?  Everyone has these moments; I’m sure it’s not just my overly sensitive interpretation of the world, right?

Here’s what I’ve learned as a parent: you never stop learning.  With each new age for you child comes new joys, but also new challenges, leaving us the task of learning to navigate these uncharted and sometimes raging waters with our wits and our faith.  And the stars.  Isn’t that what sailors did hundreds of years ago? As a mom of two boys, I do feel like a Viking conqueror, especially after bathtime.

Today I was surprised with a short but important conversation with an educator from our boys’ preschool.  My usual emotional state is challenged by surprises like this; I like time to gather my thoughts and gain perspective, but I’m also learning we aren’t always afforded that luxury in the world of education.  Since this chat left me with big feelings I wasn’t quite sure what to do with, I’m putting them in a popular place for me: written words.  Make way for my emotional dump-truck.

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Also:

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If you know my older son, you know he’s spirited.  He’s energetic.  He’s fully embraces life with every fiber of his being.  He’s strong-willed.  He’s bright.  He is me, made over.  These are a few of the sometimes-challenging but always-endearing qualities of my firstborn.  As a parent, it’s very difficult to hear your terms for your child’s personality phrased in ways like “He’s boisterous.  He’s disruptive.  He’s distracting.  He’s defiant.”  It’s difficult because you see the best; you see your child, and know that while there are times of struggle, they are far outweighed by the times of great joy.

It’s been said that comparison is the thief of joy – this rings truest when you become a parent.  From the moment your tiny human arrives in this world, people will unknowingly (or, in some cases, intentionally) cause you to second-guess your abilities, your choices, your methods.  Is he crawling?  Walking?  Eating solids?  Using the toilet?  Counting to 20?  Writing is name?  You begin to look at other kids, other families, and wonder if you just might be doing something wrong.  It’s a natural train of thought.

Where behavior is concerned, your feelings of inadequacy increase.  When you see a classmate sitting quietly, writing their numbers, after you’ve been told that your child is “unable” to do the same, it gives you pause.  It sometimes wakes up a small voice in the back of your mind that starts a sentence, “I wish my kid would…”

Would…what?  This is the truth that not many share: we’ve all had the thought.  You wish they would sit still, listen, learn their sight words, learn algebra, the list goes on and on.  And as soon as you allow that tiny, little voice to occupy space in your brain, the next voice moves in with it: guilt.  You wonder: Why do I think this?  And you feel an overwhelming sense of guilt, because you find yourself suddenly not appreciating your child’s unique personality.

The truth is, you don’t need to feel guilty.  Yes, our children are a joyous blessing, sweet little miracles who fill our lives with happiness.  But do you know what else they do?  Fill the vegetable crisper with LEGOs.  Fill the dishwasher with the 15 Batman action figures they own.  Fill the bathtub with markers without caps.  Fill your brain with the sort of “where am I?” fuzzies you sometimes had in your early 20s.  Oh, there are some very full days around here.  Human emotion is raw and honest, but it’s not bad.  It’s essential to know how we feel, so we can accept it and move on.

You also don’t need to think I wish my kid would…

Here’s what I’ve learned: your kid will, but in his own time.  Your children are snowflakes.  (YES, I SAID SNOWFLAKES)  Of course they are delicate creatures, but I also mean it in the sense that they are different.  They are unique individuals, capable of a whole heck of a lot, but not always when we expect (or prefer).  As a parent, I’ve learned we have to seriously let go of our own expectations.  Our children are humans, just like us.  They have thoughts, feelings, ideas, and plans.  They bloom in their own time, and it cannot be rushed.

But how does that knowledge help me now, today, when I’m realizing my spirited and unique child is suddenly being viewed as “that kid” by others?  You know the one.  It’s the child who makes others, total strangers, say a very similar line: I wish that kid would…

And those words put in that context, man it hurts.  It breaks my heart.  It leaves me feeling as if I’ve somehow failed over the past 4.5 years, without realizing it.  And when I hear those words from a stranger, it makes me realize what it’s like when we think those words.  When did we forget that children are just that – children?  When did we begin to expect they would do things far beyond their young years, far beyond their emotional maturity, far beyond what they should be doing?  When did we deem it acceptable to put pressure on them from such a young age?  Heartbreak territory, when you see the world is trying to make your child grow up before they should.  I want to treasure these wild moments, and remember them forever…not squash them.  When did being a kid suddenly become something we need do address?

So, what do I do?  No clue.  I’m not sitting here with the answers tonight; in fact, this is Great Parenting Truth #476: sometimes (okay, lots of times) there are no answers.  At least none that immediately present themselves.  This is like typhoon waves at midnight, with my compass going overboard and clouds covering the stars.  The Loch Ness Monster is probably waiting for me next.  Mrs. Loch Ness is probably teaching kindergarten next year, right?!

When folks say hindsight is 20/20, I can tell you this: those folks are parents.  I know that we’ll continue doing what we do: loving, supporting, nurturing, learning, growing.  I will remind myself daily (or hourly) that there is no growth without challenge.  I will embrace every minute of this, because I know it will continue to pass quickly, and I’ll miss finding rocks in my shoes one day.  I will try to remind others that these are still children, and we should have little expectations.  And I will remind them that they are humans, like us, and deserve the same respect and grace we (should) extend to each other.

Give it some time.  Even the lotus blooms from muck.

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The Trifecta

A few weeks ago, we had a pretty big weekend.  First, Grant slept all night.  ALL NIGHT.  Like, ten consecutive hours of uninterrupted sleep.  Second, Grant got his first tooth.  Seems counterintuitive to sleeping through the night, right?  But those things happened.  And third, Miles officially learned how to use the toilet full-time.  That was The Trifecta.

But we’ve learned that with all things awesome, there can sometimes be a little catch.  A little something unexpected.  Or expected.  It happens.

The caveats to our trifecta weekend:

Sleeping through the night.  In all of Grant’s time on earth, he has slept through the night less than a handful of times (that’s less than five, people).  It’s no biggie, really, because we’ve learned that after you have one kid you never, ever sleep the same again.  Every sneeze, roll, squeak and meow will awaken you, probably because parents never truly enter REM sleep.  It’s the sort of insomnia in which you can fall asleep just fine, but wake up shortly thereafter, and repeatedly throughout the night.  Grant settled into the routine of waking up once overnight to eat, and he’s kept that same pattern.  Around 2am, I know he’s going to call us to cash in our “ha, you thought you were going to sleep?!” tab.  He’s only up long enough to eat, but I often find myself up long enough to watch three episodes of Roseanne (side note: I can tell you TV Land’s entire overnight programming schedule).  When Grant did sleep through the night, we relished in the uninterrupted hours (although I woke up twice just to make sure I was actually sleeping) but we did know it was probably a fluke.  And it was.  One day, he’ll be a teenager and he’ll sleep all night and then some (right?  please tell me he’ll sleep one day…) but until then, we exhaustingly enjoy our special time at 2am.  Every night.  Without fail.

The first tooth.  Aah, the first tooth is awesome because IT’S THE FIRST TOOTH!  But the first tooth can also make your sweet baby a total asshole.  So, there’s the caveat.  Grant has been an adorable jerk for a week or so now, and this tooth popping up explains it all.

Learning to use the toilet.  This is awesome, right?  I mean it’s one less kid in diapers.  But it is also a weapon to be used against you.  For example, Miles thinks he should get marshmallows every time he poops now.  He also manages to make bedtime last a full 45 minutes longer than usual because he knows that we don’t know if he really needs to go to the bathroom and we will naturally respond to every “Moooom, I have to peeee!” by escorting him to the bathroom half a dozen times until he finally gives up and realizes that 1). we aren’t letting him stay up and 2). you do not get marshmallows every time you sit on the toilet.  Yes, our lives are controlled by this three foot tall dictator.

All of these things are awesome, and we are super proud.  Super tired, but super proud.

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I buy Café Bustelo in bulk now.

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Preg Etiquette

I know what you’re thinking, and of course I’ve been slacking around here; I’m 34 weeks preg with a 350lb linebacker whose only interest is seeing how far into my ribs a foot could possibly be jammed (answer: the foot feels like it’s coming out of my ear).  Every time I sneeze, I’m afraid I’ll pee.  Every time I pee, I’m afraid my water will break.  Every time I look at the carseat now installed in my backseat, I fuh-reak the freak out.  So I promise to be back with more regularly scheduled nonsense, but in the meantime, I’ve gathered a list of things I’ve been asked/told over the past few weeks that were not well received.  Thankfully, I have also provided you with a list of replacement phrases and questions.  Learn it, use it.  THE MORE YOU KNOW.
Things Every Preg Hates to Hear:
  • Are you having twins?
  • You haven’t had that baby yet?
  • You’re carrying your baby weight really well.
  • Better get your rest while you still can!
  • That baby will be enormous.
  • Do your boobs hurt?
  • I bet you can belch like a trucker.
  • Those are some serious dark circles you’re sporting.
Things Every Preg Loves to Hear:
  • The cook accidentally doubled your order of onion rings.
  • No charge for the extra hot fudge.
  • You look like a beautiful, glowing Earth Mama.
  • YOU LOOK SO WELL RESTED!
  • You’re so tiny!
  • Would you like an extra scoop of ice cream?
  • Would you like a brownie?
  • Please, eat the last slice.
  • Would you like a foot rub?
  • You should go take a nap.
  • I WILL CLEAN THE ENTIRE HOUSE FOR YOU.  And then I will bake you a cake.
  • DELICIOUS FOOD, THIS WAY!
And so, in summation, it’s food.  I like to hear about food.  Keep your opinions about belly size/nipples/dark circles/gas to yourself, and give me a brownie.
 
OMG ONLY SIX WEEKS TO GO,
K
ACCURATE.

ACCURATE.

Kid Two = Jumping Out of an Airplane, AGAIN.

I read a really great post recently about skydiving and parenting; the author truly hit the nail on the head in terms of relating your pregnancies (and impending children) to jumping out of an airplane.  The first time you go skydiving, it’s thrilling and exciting.  You think you know what to expect, but aren’t quite sure until you’ve jumped out of that plane, and taken flight (also, like with skydiving, THERE IS NO TURNING BACK WITH CHILDBIRTH).  You had so much fun, you’re just crazy enough to decide to do it again, only this time it’s lost some of that sparkle.  Because this time, you sort of know how it will feel and what to expect.  Maybe this time you have a little more anxiety, because know that you understand how things are supposed to work, you worry about whether they actually will work the way you’ve anticipated.

Having kids = Jumping out of an airplane.

You see, with Kid One, you’re so superduper excited.  You stare in wonder at your weekly fruit/vegetable update from The Bump (Poppy seed!  Blueberry!  Prickly pear!  Jack-O-Lantern!  Baby Orca!)  You eagerly anticipate each week, moving further along in the club of expecting moms.  You cannot WAIT to begin wearing maternity clothes!  And you read an overwhelming volume of articles, books and blog posts on labor and delivery, because you have no clue what to expect, so you’d like to be prepared.  You are glittering, sparkling ball of OMGBABY!  You write your birth plan with stars and hearts in the margin of your notebook!  And you are terrified; so afraid of birth, of what will happen, of what could go wrong, of how bad it could hurt, blah blah blah.  Then IT HAPPENS, and the baby is HERE.  You officially jumped out of the plane, and survived, and it was awesome and exhilarating and everything you’d hoped it would be and LET’S DO IT AGAIN!

You also don’t know about the three week growth spurt, four month sleep regression, teething, various forms of poop, and being up every three hours for those first mind-numbing weeks (or months).  You know, the “jumping out of a damn plane” part.  But you know what?  You figure it out.  You pull the ripcord (or google “WHY IS MY BABY DOING THIS WEIRD THING?!”) and you become a full-fledged parent.

Then, if you’re like us, once Kid One turns about a year old you decide…yes, really, LET’S DO IT AGAIN.  You’ve officially joined the Parenting Circus (not the same as the Family Circus; PC has way more profanity and wine, trust).

And now, with Kid Two, you probably aren’t as excited.  What fruit am I this week?  I don’t know, I feel like a watermelon but I don’t think that’s accurate until week 473.  I started wearing maternity clothes before I even got pregnant again (because in reality, I never actually stopped wearing some of my favorite things from when I was pregnant with Kid One).  I only want to advance in weeks because I would like this child to exit La Hacienda de Uterus.  I have read zero articles on delivering Kid Two because I know how it works, and while I know some crazy situation could always arise, I also know that there are people more knowledgeable and trained than me who will handle figuring all that out.  My birth plan is simple: BIRTH THE CHILD.

Something else I’ve found with Kid Two that also happens when you jump out of a plane for the second time: This time, you know.  Like, you know what’s going to happen, what it will feel like, what the end result will be.  And that is what terrifies you this time.  Because you know what the jumping out of the plane part is like; you know what pulling the ripcord is like.  You know to be afraid of the witching hour, or cutting those first teeth.  Maybe it’s a blessing that first timers don’t really know.  And it’s a frightening blessing for us second timers in that we do know.

But it’s more than just the care of a newborn; that part isn’t really that terrifying, because once you’ve parented a toddler, you can do anything in the entire world with one hand tied behind your back AND blindfolded while singing Wheels on the Bus for the 782nd time that day.  The greatest anxiety I feel right now?  It’s still in the knowing, but it’s not in the care, that much I know we can do…it’s in the emotion.  Knowing how much you love Kid One, and wondering if it’s truly possible to love anyone as much as that.  Knowing that your life is about to be turned upside down (again) while in a good way (again) but a very, very different way, because it’s not just Party of Three any longer, it’s Party of Four.  How will Kid One handle the emotional process of gaining a sibling?  Better yet, how will a toddler handle it?  If you are unfamiliar with how well a toddler can handle a change in routine, try giving him the Big Bird sippy cup instead of the Elmo one.  Go ahead, try it.  I DARE YOU.

When we had Miles, I regarded newborns with a healthy amount of fear and joy combined.  It’s safe to say that those same feelings (is fearjoy a thing?) are still present and accounted for as we countdown to Kid Two.  I have no doubt in my mind that we’ll make it.  I mean, it’s not like we’re the first parents to have *gasp* two children.  So we do the normal sibling-prep things.  Miles talks to “his baby”, and kisses my belly (and will also remind me, “No, Mama, no baby”)  We talk about BIG BOY things, the important job of being a BIG BROTHER, and how much fun this will be.  We read books, sing songs, make crafts, things to incorporate the idea of becoming an older sibling.  And we do a lot of extra extra snuggling.  Is it enough?  I don’t know; I’m sure we’ll still experience the ups and downs of change, just like we did the first time around.  But we’ll handle it with grace and love and a fair amount of wine when necessary (and cookies…and chocolate…so much chocolate).

I’m hoping we’re semi-prepared for this next ride.  I hear it only gets wilder…

OMG,

K

Definitely parents.

Definitely parents.