*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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Pockets Full of Leaves

Hello, there!  It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  One of my “New Year’s Resolutions” (really using the phrase loosely, here) was to write more.  We’re practically halfway through the year, and this is the first time I’ve really sat down and made time to write.  I’m calling this a win.

I realized that, in my busyness, I was beginning to miss things.  I’ve always been a writer, always kept journals – especially since becoming a mom.  While the baby books aren’t completed, I’ve promised myself that one day my Ziploc bags with locks of hair and little scraps of paper with notes like “Grant first step 3/18/16!” will become coherent sentences in the future baby book I will finish (after I purchase it, of course).

But when there’s been too many months absent of writing, I start to feel untethered.  So I’m making a semi-conscious effort (let’s face it – all moms are semi-conscious on a daily basis) to write just a little bit more.

When I sat at my desk yesterday, I realized there were some items in my pockets.  I pulled them out one by one, and found they were the boys’ treasures they’d collected on our walk from the parking lot to their preschool entrance that morning.  Two rocks, a few leaves, a snail shell, and half an eraser.  The boys always hand their treasure to me for safe keeping, until I pick them up in the afternoon.  My purse is frequently filled with similar treasures, along with Matchbox cars, socks, and Legos.  Once a week, I empty the bag to gather the treasures, surveying the week’s adventures.  I am amazed that children can find just as many interesting things walking to the preschool entrance as they can during a trip to the park.  Isn’t this the beautiful thing about childhood?  The wonder and adventure of it all?

Sometimes I’ll forget to take these things out of my pockets, and the laundry will end up full of leaf fragments.  Sometimes someone will put half an uneaten sprinkle cookie in my purse.  Almost always, the cookie goes unnoticed, until I reach in the bottom of my bag to find something and come up with a handful of crumbs and sprinkles.  Childhood is also full of surprises.

The boys are 4 and 2 now, and it’s dawning on me that we’re entering a new chapter.  This is the twilight of the toddler years.  Soon their independence (and size) will keep me from carrying them.  You can sense the change in seasons through the way the boys talk and play, the questions they ask, and the things they learn and share.  Miles will talk to you about endangered species, while Grant will show you how high he can climb by himself.  Offers for help are more often turned down, because “I can do it myself, watch!”  The little hands that could once only hold my finger now have a firm grasp on my hand when crossing the street, reminding me to “stop, look, and listen.”  The soft baby hair that once fluttered like down in the breeze now sticks up wildly and in every direction, sweaty from an afternoon of boys’ adventures in their make-believe pirate ship.  The tiny people whose grapes I once sliced in half now open the refrigerator, find a snack, and help themselves.  Gone are the days of airplane spoons and booster seats.

So I’ve told myself to stop; to pause, to soak it all in, because we’re growing up.  Every time I hear Grant say, “Uhm-a-no, door!” or “yeyyow nana!” I want to remember that moment, because soon he’ll be able to say, “Open the door!”  and “yellow banana!”  and I’ll miss those mispronunciations.  When Miles ask for help writing his letter “S” because it really is tricky to master, I have to watch and take in his concentrated face and efforts, because one day he’ll be typing his term papers.  When the boys ask if we can build just one more fort, I’ll drop everything I’m doing to help, because one day they’ll be constructing all on their own, with no need for mom to get to the things they can’t reach.

I’ll miss those pockets full of leaves.  I’ll miss finding rocks hidden in my shoe, and Batman figures stashed in the vegetable crisper.  I’ll miss overflowing bubble baths, putting socks on their feet while they’re sleeping, and turning off the nightlight.

Every age is full of magic.  Every age we reach, I think to myself, “this one, right here – this is my favorite age” because the truth is, these tiny beings are incredible, wonderful, amazing people, growing into incredible, wonderful, amazing young men.  I treasure the beautiful series of moments replaying in my mind, from first steps, to learning to brush our teeth on our own, to putting on their shoes by themselves. 

Yes, Ferris Bueller was right about life, and it moving pretty fast.  Take time to stop and smell the roses, even if they’re covered in strawberry jelly and glitter, because one day, you’ll miss this.

Dinner with Rain Man (aka “Why we eat dinner at home.”)

Is that title offensive?  I don’t think so; it’s not intended to be, and I trust my bleeding-ACLU-loving heart to send up a signal when something is offensive.  But if you’re the parent of a toddler, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Let me set the stage…

It’s Sunday evening, 6pm.  The time we eat dinner most days.  Plates are awaiting my family’s arrival to the table.  We’re having spaghetti and homemade meatballs, because toddlers love all things noodle and/or meatball related.  I made a salad, but that’s for the adults, even though Miles will believe it’s for him as well.

Me: “Time to wash up for dinner!”

:::football related noises from living room:::

Me: “Guys!  It’s dinnertime!”

:::football related noises plus “wheeee!” from living room:::

Me: “I MADE MEATBALLS.”

Miles: “Meatballs!  Meatballs!  Meatballs!”

The kid immediately runs to the table.  I remind him we need to wash our hands first.  My request has fallen on deaf ears as he attempts to climb into his booster seat without assistance.  Evan carries the kid football-style to the sink, where we begin the process of hand washing, also known as “let’s see how many times I can stick my head under the running faucet.”  We towel off and head to the table.  It is now 6:07pm.

My family begins the joyous process of consuming dinner.  Like I said, toddlers love meatballs and noodles, and guess what?  So do adults.  Some dinner conversation relating to the news and politics is interjected with comments like, “Use your fork” and “Would you like a napkin?”

6:12pm.  With two meatballs and a handful of noodles done, the show begins.  My son begins picking the diced tomatoes out of his sauce, and hands them to me in rapid succession.  If I am unable to “hold” said tomatoes quickly enough, he will throw them in my lap.  He reminds me of his newly formed dislike of tomatoes.

Miles: “Mama, no tomato.  Mama, no tomato.  Mama, NO TOMATOOOOO!” Flings tomatoes to floor.

Me: “Miles, if you do not want to eat them you may leave them on your plate.” Hindsight: Why would I suggest such a thing?

Miles: “NONONONONONONO TOMATO.”  More tomato flinging.

You should know that my son has inherited some of my OCD tendencies.  If a food is on his plate that he doesn’t wish to eat, he must remove all traces from his plate before he will continue dinner.  He also got upset when a noodle became stuck to his arm after he swung it around his head like a lasso.  He got even more upset when I laughed about it.

Me: “Miles, you may place your tomatoes on this napkin if you do not want to eat them.”

Miles: “Okay, mama.”  I win, for now.

6:17pm.  Miles attempts to turn his plate upside down, but this is thwarted my his mom’s super ninja dinner table skills.  He pushes his plate away, and I remind him that mom and dad are still eating, so he can continue sitting at the table with us for a few more minutes.

Miles: (pointing to Evan’s dinner plate) “Mine!”

Me: “Miles, that is daddy’s dinner.  What on the plate belongs to you?”

Miles: “Yellow plate.”

Of course the entire plate belongs to him.  I remind him that he has the same dinner on his own plate.  I hand him a meatball, which he happily eats.  It’s now 6:22pm.

Miles: “Yellow bowl!  Mine.  My yellow bowl.”

Me: “Your dad’s salad bowl?”

Realizing that dinner is soon over, I slide the empty bowl over to Miles, thinking this will buy me ten more minutes to finish my own salad.  Miles promptly takes the bowl and places it in on his head.

Miles: “Hat!  Mama, see my hat!”

Me: “You smell like a Caesar salad.”

Miles: “I have a hat.  Yellow hat.”

We play Bowl Hat for a few more minutes, then I unbuckle Miles from his booster seat.  He asks to sit in the chair next to me, which I always allow, because we’re working on our “big boy” skills.

Miles: “Up.  Up.  Up.” He is attempting to climb on top of the dinner table.

Me: “Miles, on your tush.  Chairs are for sitting.  We cannot climb on top of the table, you could get a big owie.”

Now, one would think that reasoning in toddler terms would help them to better understand.  And the people who think those things are either naive (raises hand) or have never spent much time around toddlers.

Miles: “Uuuuuhhhhhhuuuuuppppp!” There were 17 syllables in this “up.”

Me: “Miles, the rule is sitting on our tush in the chair at the table.  If you are all done, you may be excused.”

Miles: “Up, mama! Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. On table. On table. On table. Up. Up. Up.”

I explain that everyone is all done now, and we can go play.  I rub his head, only to question its slimy feeling, which reminds me about the Caesar salad bowl hat.  Extra shampoo tonight.

Miles: “Okay, mama. Love you. Pirates?”

Me: “Yes, we will read Pirates. I love you, too.” And that’s why Bowl Hats are totally fine.

Most nights, dinner is a circus.  If propping his feet up on the table is what makes Miles comfortable enough to eat his lima beans, then so be it.  He’s only a toddler once.  You pick and choose your battles, knowing that the trivial things just don’t matter (i.e. bowl hats) and the things that could have long-term effects are what we should focus on (i.e. why we don’t climb on tables).  Eating with adults is a learning process, and I’m the first to admit that my own table manners could probably use some work.

This is also why we choose to eat dinner at home.  If we go out as a family, it’s usually breakfast or lunch.  If we’re feeling really adventurous/lacking good judgment, we’ll do dinner, but always somewhere loud and family friendly.  On the very rare occasion that Evan and I go out for a nice dinner, it’s always just the two of us.  It’s awesome to have some adult time that includes things like conversation, wine and appetizers, and excludes things like sippy cups, food in nugget form and saying “please” 127 times.

#toddlerlife

#toddlerlife

"You look ridiculous."

“You look ridiculous. Also, no tomatoes. No tomatoes. No tomatoes. No tomatoes.”

It’s not to say that Miles is poorly behaved, because he definitely isn’t.  We just look at this from his perspective.  If the average dinner at home lasts about 27 minutes, I’m not going to have him sit in a high chair or booth with me for an hour.  That’s not fun; he can learn the same dining skills at home, and I don’t have to worry about him eating the crayons (at dinner, that is).  The day will come, sooner than we realize, where we will go out for dinner as a family and no one will try to put a bowl of spaghetti on their head.  But for now, we’re happy to enjoy those moments at home, in all their loud and messy glory.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to scrape the tomatoes off the ceiling.

Sunday Mom Confessions

It’s that time again…time for me to avoid putting any serious effort into writing, and give you the list of things I’ve done recently that wouldn’t make the cover of Parenting Magazine.  Enjoy.

This week, I have…

  1. Worn maternity pants to the office. I feel like this ends up on the confession list every month, but it’s true.  I also don’t believe any of my coworkers notice when I do this.
  2. Realized it’s been three weeks since I’ve done my own laundry.  Don’t worry, everyone else has clean clothes, and I have yet to turn a pair of underwear inside out for myself.  This stems from the burned out light bulb in my closet, which has in turn provided enough material for an entire blog post.  I know you’re looking forward to that.
  3. Forgotten that Miles is on Mixed Veggie Protest.  Instead, he has opted to eat only peas, corn and carrots, but not mixed together.  At dinner this evening, I proceeded to separate all mixed veggies.  That, my friends, is love.  It is also understanding that he has most likely inherited his mother’s whack OCD.
  4. Eaten three grilled cheese sandwiches and two fried turkey bologna sandwiches for lunch.  Yesterday, I ate half a head of broccoli with some dip, so I believe that balances out the grilled cheese.  I’m tired and lazy.
  5. Prayed to the gods of the twelve month molars to let the teeth come in already, so the kid will stop chewing on my car keys every chance he gets.
  6. Attempted to bake a butterscotch brownie using a recipe I’m completely unfamiliar with, off the bag of butterscotch chips no less.  It turned out to be an 8×8 butterscotch chocolate chip cookie disaster, that couldn’t even be cut.  Instead of throwing it away, I stuck a spoon in it, and continued eating large chunks every single day while cooking dinner.  It was hate-eating at its finest.
  7. Cried during American Ninja Warrior.  This has also given me enough material for an entire post.
  8. Did zero household chores during Saturday’s naptime.  Instead, I opted to lay on the couch watching reruns of Sex and the City, and work on level 164 of Candy Crush.  People still play that, right?  I’m a little out of the loop…
  9. So far out of the loop, that I had never heard the songs “Happy” or “Fancy” until this week.  But I know all the words to “Down by the Bay” (where the watermelons grooow…Raffi 4 Lyfe)
  10. Let Miles fingerpaint with his yogurt, out of sheer appreciation for the joy on his face while doing so.  A dining room table can be replaced, but memories of coconut yogurt sunshines are irreplaceable.

Before I had Miles, I took melatonin religiously at bedtime.  After I got knocked up, I realized the label said “not for use during pregnancy”, so I quit.  I remember worrying about how well I would sleep without melatonin (surprise: pregnancy takes care of that), and that I was looking forward to the day I could take it again.  Then we had Miles, and I realized that children are melatonin for parents.  Their strength increases with age.  This isn’t a confession; merely an observation.  You don’t want to sleep like a baby; you want to sleep like the parents of the baby.

Miles will be 15 months old tomorrow, which to me feels like he’s getting his learner’s permit.  I’ll never make fun of anyone who says “boy, does time fly…” ever again.

Zzzz,

K