*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.

dump-truck-2015-06-04-134605

Also:

anigif_enhanced-319-1439655006-2

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.

blog-image-lotus-in-mud

 

 

Advertisements

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.

Parenting: Your Honorary Degree in Child Psychology

Earlier this week, I was discussing the Two Year Sleep Regression (post to follow on THAT, trust me) with one of my best friends.  Her daughter is a few months younger than Miles, so some of the things we’ve experienced in our house haven’t quite made it to her house yet, but we’ve both gone through those moments of Temporary Toddler Insanity that really throw you for a loop.  And because we’re both first-time parents, each “What about the bathtub thing?” was met with a resounding “YES, but what about the carrot thing?!”  First-time parents are always thrilled to find out they aren’t alone in these experiences; we need someone else to understand our experience with such toddler-trauma inducing things as round foods (you know: peas, grapes, wagon wheel pasta…) Having others in your parenting village who know exactly what you’re talking about is crucial, primarily to your own sanity.
Ozzy was totally singing about his kids.

Ozzy was totally singing about his kids.

 
Becoming a parent should qualify you for an honorary degree in Child Psychology.  Like, a DOCTORATE.  I’m not sure that non-parents are aware of the mental skills and fortitude we as parents develop in a relatively short amount of time.  Some of our favorite moments of Temporary Toddler Insanity, and how we met each challenge, as follows:
 
Pajama Trauma
When we had our first “cool snap” (using the term loosely because it’s Florida) in late September, I knew it was time to put Miles in long sleeve pajamas.  The kid had slept in long sleeve pajamas from the moment he entered this world up until July of last year, when the weather started getting warm and I thought he was old enough for short sleeves.  Little did I know that a two month gap in long sleeves would provide enough time for Miles to forget that these were still pajamas, and not bear traps for his arms.  Oh sure, we could get the bottoms on, but when it came to the top?  FORGET IT.  Upon viewing the long sleeved torture device, Miles promptly erupted into a mountain of NONONONONONONONO, accompanied by writhing around like a snake.  Evan suggested cutting the sleeves off his new jammies; I refused, because the jammies were cute, and he would ADJUST.  Solution?  He slept in his jammie bottoms and tank top for a week, until I finally got the bright idea to hide his pajama top until it was too late (you know, already over his head).  Sure, the first couple times we got the jammie top on, he pulled his arms through the sleeves and yelled at me (mostly because his arms were then stuck and immobile, something I mentally bookmarked for future use), but once he understood the concept of warm and cozy, he relented and wore them. 

Then we went through a phase of refusing to wear specific jammies: NO MONSTERS.  NO DINOSAURS.  NO RACCOONS.  And so, we wore Christmas jammies for a week in October.  Stripes seemed to be permissible.  I would periodically talk about how much FUN the raccoons or monsters or dinosaurs would be, and we were slowly able to add those back into the nighttime wardrobe.  Although sometimes he still refuses the dinosaurs (but they are ALSO long sleeved, making them a two-fer of disaster).
 
Our overall solution: Just put the kid in something that he’ll sleep in and throw an extra blanket in his bed if necessary.  We pick and choose our battles, right?
 
Bathtub Trauma
When Miles was just over a year old, we went through two weeks in which the bathtub was no longer the bubble filled splash zone of endless fun, but a vat of hot lava and pointy sticks.  This kid is a fish; you would normally have to beg him to get out of the tub, and here we were with a child who cried at the mere sight of running water.  All baths were given with him standing up (of course we were holding on to him, we aren’t totally clueless).  All scrubbing was announced prior to commencement to avoid any shrieks of surprise and panic: “Okay Miles, time to wash your toes!  Whee, how much fun!” (Note: It was not fun).  We created songs, dances, routines.  We added a thousand toys; we removed 900 of them, found a few that worked, including a turkey baster and a marinade brush.  We did bubbles and no bubbles.  Maybe he was afraid of the loofah?  Washcloth it is.  Eventually, we developed an elaborate pre-bath routine of choosing our bath toys for the evening, then hurling them into the running water.  And POOF, bath time was fun again.
 
SPOOOOOONS
Miles has been a great self-feeder since about 14 months old.  Give him his yogurt and a spoon, and he was good to go.  Then suddenly, we only wanted to throw our spoon across the dining room.  Once it was gone, drama ensued because HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO EAT MY YOGURT WITHOUT A SPOON?!
 
Easy solution: The kid gets four spoons with his snack and meals.  DONE.  I’m not Emily Post; I don’t need to teach the kid to eat with his salad fork and keep his elbows off the table, all I need is for him to get the food to his mouth, in whatever fashion is currently working.
 
Dinner Trauma
If you have kids in preschool, you’ve probably learned that their behavior and choices at school will differ from those at home.  For example, Miles will eat heaping piles of Brussel sprouts at school.  At home, he will refuse all things green.  This doesn’t stop me from serving the vegetables, but the response was usually one of, “Get this slop off my plate, woman!” as he threw beans, peas and broccoli at the cat.  If he doesn’t want to eat it, well it’s not allowed to be on his plate.  And he will not eat any of the other foods until the unacceptable peasant vegetable is removed from his sight.  I knew that I would never stop serving him the vegetables, because something keeps telling me that ONE DAY he will eat them again.  The concept of “leaving it on your plate if you don’t want to eat it” was not understood by my son.  And so, when dinner rolls around, we give Miles an empty napkin next to his plate where he is allowed to place anything he isn’t interested in eating.  Here, he can “No, mama…no broccoli” all he wants, and it keeps the mess to a minimum without giving me yet another thing to wash (because parents, do we not wash ALL THE THINGS ALL THE TIME?)  Even if I just serve leftovers, there are 487 dishes and utensils waiting for me when we’re done (including the six spoons under the piano).  So you figure out not only what works, but what is efficient. 
 
Parenting can be both a physical and mental game; you will become an incredibly adept problem solver for even the most mundane tasks (like OMG PUTTING ON SOCKS GET THEM OFF MY FEEEET!)  You will be like Mr. Miagi and Dr. House combined into one Child Psychology Ninja Wizard.  You will be both baffled by the solutions that work and amazed at your ability to even devise those solutions in the first place.  Then you will eat cookies in celebration.
 
Doctorate in Awesome Momming,
K, PhD

Opinions are like _______________.

The month of December was a supremely awesome whirlwind of festive in my face.  Topping off 2014, I’ve spent the past two weeks on SAHMcation with Miles, and the time together has been phenomenal.  Having Kid Two on the way really brings a greater appreciation to the time you have with Kid One, and we’ve been appreciating the hell out of life these past few months.

With the holiday season comes lots of time with others: friends, family, coworkers, acquaintances, neighbors, strangers you meet at Publix.  Something I’ve noticed more, probably because we’re like really in the Parents Club now, is the inquiring minds of these others.  Questions about parenting styles and methods are common in most of our circles, which is totally fine, since most of you know I love nothing more than to share my opinion.  But something else I’ve noticed is the intent behind the question; most genuinely want to know how or why we do something, or what has worked best for us.  Others seem to ask with their opposing view lying in wait, ready to begin the debate.

Here’s the deal: I’m an oversharer, but with good intentions.  If you ask, it’s because I think you want to know, not because you want to argue.  Our choice may be different from yours, and that’s okay, because only the parents know what is best for their children and families.

Over the past four weeks, I’ve been asked about potty training (nope, we haven’t started), schedules (yes, we live by the schedule), spanking (nope, we don’t believe in spanking) and vegetables (veggie pasta for life).  Most who ask are parents of young children, and it’s good discussion for us, as well as enlightening to hear alternate points of view in some cases.  But there are a handful who ask with the anticipation of my response, because they want to argue.

Just like a nose or bellybutton, everyone has an opinion.  But your opinion doesn’t negate our parenting choice, and I would never vocalize my own thoughts about your style to your face (to my husband’s face, yes, but we’re allowed to talk about other parents, it’s a Club rule).

Parenting is, in my son’s words, “SO BIG.”  It’s monumental.  I was talking with my husband the other night, after coming to the revelation that not only are we teaching Miles to hold hands when crossing the street so he isn’t hit by a car, but we must also teach him why he doesn’t want to be hit by one of those large, fascinating, rolling machines.  Do you know why you don’t want to be hit by a car?  Of course you do, you’re an adult.  Truth: toddlers do not.  He has no concept of what that car will do to him.  The depth of teaching is far greater than some people realize or remember.  When you come to understand the importance of what we do each and every day, a deep respect is felt for all parents.  We deserve a hell of a lot of respect.

Please keep that in mind the next time you want to ask about potties (we’re waiting until Miles is ready, respect that) or spanking (we believe in education and discussion, respect that) or vegetables (we accept what Miles will and will not eat this week, respect that) or schedules (we live by the schedule 99.9% of the time and you’d better respect that).

To quote a Stephen King book I’m currently reading, “Parenting is the ultimate ‘hum a few bars and I’ll figure it out’ routines…”  Yes, absolutely.  We’re flying by the seat of our pants quite a bit, especially us first timers, learning as we go.  Know that we’re putting the well-being of our child first, and even though you may not believe it, we do know what’s best for our family.  To question or give an opinion from a place of negativity is unnecessary, and will only be met with some sort of immature response from me (duh).

I am a mature adult.

I am a mature adult.

RESPECT.

(I feel like I owe Aretha some back royalties for broaching the topic of respect so frequently)

Back this week with regularly scheduled nonsense and a recap of 2014, confirming my sanity level is low.  We’ll try to keep the sappy stuff to a minimum and the poop stories to a maximum.  Promise.

Word to your motha,

K