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Category Archives: Parenthood

Straight Line

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The shortest distance between two points, is a straight line.

We have all heard this at some point, whether or not it was in reference to something important in our lives, or just in highschool geometry class.  But, I have found myself thinking a lot about this lately in regards to motherhood.

I consider myself very fortunate that I get four days off every week, due to my work schedule.  However, I feel like the majority of my time over the course of those four days is spent trying to cross things off my to do list.  Often they are the same things over and over again because some of this stuff, like laundry and dishes, are cyclical and just don’t get done when I am not at home during the three days straight I do work.  I don’t think I am obsessive about my need for organization and a generally clean home, but my husband would disagree with that because it does seem like I am always cleaning or doing some sort of chore.

But, here’s the thing.  Most of what I do would get done in an hour a day if I actually was able to get an uninterrupted hour in which to focus on what needed to get done.  Instead, the reality is that I stop what I am doing just about every 5 minutes to get someone juice, redress someone for the fifth time, help someone get cleaned up in the bathroom, break up some sibling squabble, put a shirt on Barbie, put someone in time out, get someone some cheese, close the refrigerator door that was left open, help someone find something they lost (Dave is included on this one).  So, what should take an hour takes FOREVER!

There is no straight line.

I have so far not succeeded in explaining to the little egocentric beings in my house that if they just left me alone and played nicely together for one hour, I could then devote my full attention to them doing something fun and engaging.  I do still try to do fun activities with my girls because I really don’t get to see them for three days out of the week, but I am much more exhausted by the time I get to it.

It is what it is though… this is parenting.  Most of us spend most of our time spinning in circles.  I still wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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Soapbox

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“He’s really good with the ipad.”

“She knows how to use my smart phone better than I do.”

I can’t tell you how often I hear this spoken with pride.  My kids have been exposed to both of these devices… it is almost impossible for kids these days not to be.  But, while they know how to use them (it’s not that hard), they don’t grasp the magnitude of what these gadgets are capable of, nor do they use them effortlessly.  And you know what… I am proud of THAT.

They also do not own a single hand held device, and they have no idea that game consoles even exist.  I plan to keep the Wii we do own under wraps for as long as possible.  Nora does play games on my computer and both girls play on my phone on occasion, but it’s a treat.

Call me old fashioned, or even just old, but I hate the role technology plays in the lives of children these days.  I cringe when I am at family holidays and look around to see almost everyone engaged with their devices instead of each other.  It makes me sad, really sad.  I think it’s strange that kids have their own tablets at such a young age, when I don’t even own one myself.  I am determined to teach my kids to play board games, hide and go seek and a love of the library.  I try to take them outside as much as possible.  I LOVE that the preschool they will both attend is technology free.

Habits are created easily.  I am just as guilty as the next person of unconsciously checking my phone throughout the day.  I don’t even know why I do it.  I owe it to my children to try to teach them healthy habits such as a love of the outdoors and discovery instead of a love of continual visual entertainment.

So, for now, I am really happy that my kid’s are still amazed when they are exposed to electronic games.  They haven’t become desensitized to it yet because it is not a part of their daily life.  I know my days are numbered as I can’t shelter them from it forever, but I that won’t stop me from trying.

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Empty Nest – Phase One

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I am in the process of scheduling Meredith’s preschool interview.  It feels surreal because she is still very much a baby in some ways.  She is still working on learning to use the potty and still she has the typical two year old meltdowns.  She still needs a little help getting herself dressed.  But, the fact of the matter is that she will be three in just two short months and will be entering the three year preschool program at VMM this coming Fall.  And I know she will be ready.

But, I don’t know if I am.

Having my baby enter school is a much different emotional experience for me than when my oldest did.  Don’t get me wrong, I know there is some beauty in it.  Once they are both in preschool, I will have three hours every morning to go to the grocery store or run errands by myself.  I can schedule things like my doctor’s appointments and hair cuts without having to worry about child care or dragging them with me.  I can vacuum or clean the house, something that takes me all day currently because I am constantly stopping to tend to someone’s imminent demands.  I could even go grab a coffee and read a book at a cafe.  Yes, there is a lot to look forward to.

However, there is a part of me that is not sure how I will adjust.  For the last four and a half years I have been a hands on Mom for virtually every second of my life that has not been spent at my paying job.  I am admittedly a little saddened by the idea that I will no longer have a little one underfoot.  It is going to be a little bit lonely.

Watching your children grow up is such a bittersweet experience.  You are so excited to see them grow and learn.  But with each passing milestone you also see the loss of others.  Every time Meredith asks me to hold her, just because, I try to soak in as much of the experience as possible because soon she will be too big for me to hold like that.  Or worse, she will stop wanting me to.

In the past, every time Nora reached a new milestone in her life, it would hold a mixture of wistfulness and excitement.  But, I could let go and feel the excitement more because I still had Meredith who wasn’t quite there yet.  Having both of my kids in school is closing the chapter on a specific part of their childhood and as a result also in my experience as a mother.  This is a fact of life.  There is no freezing time or turning back the clock.

I understand why parents cry when they drop their kids off for their first day of preschool and eventually (hopefully) college.  I am learning yet another challenging part of being a parent… letting go.  I guess I should be grateful it comes in stages.  I don’t think many parents would be successful at it otherwise.

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Orange Rhino

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ImageA friend (who I greatly admire for her ability to not yell) directed me to this website a while back.  The author has several very interesting articles on how to work towards a life style where you learn how to better manage your frustrations and anger towards others, primarily your kids, and eliminate yelling from your daily life.

12 Steps to Stop Yelling at your Kids

This concept intrigues me.  I yell more than I would like to admit.  And while sometimes, I do feel it is justified, I also realize that A) it really doesn’t help anything and B) it doesn’t make me feel any better.  I also know that I tend to yell at my kids more when I am mad at my husband.  How is that fair?

This past week I decided to take another look at this website.  I especially identify with what she says about triggers and how being aware of these (and preparing ahead of time to emotionally deal with them) can make a world of difference.

Tracking my Triggers

How to Fight Yelling Triggers and Win

The Orange Rhino also talks about how, when deciding to eliminate yelling from your life, you should set goals.  Her goal was 365 days, but she encourages people to set smaller goals if that is what they need to do.  So, I decided to give this a try.  My goal, sadly, was one day of not yelling.  A tiny goal, but ya know what… I did it.  I did not yell today.  Now, this does not translate into not feeling aggravated, stressed or upset.  And it was not easy, which I did expect.  But, every time I felt my voice rising, I was able to call it into check and take a breath and either take a minute to regroup or formulate a new approach to whatever interaction with my girls was currently frustrating me.  And we still had a few times outs… one Meredith even put herself in.  But, all of this was done with relative (external) calmness.

My new goal: 2 days

Because I think that what she says here makes sense and sounds wonderful.

http://theorangerhino.com/10-things-i-learned-when-i-stopped-yelling-at-my-kids/

Best Compliment I Ever Received

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“You are so patient with your kids.”

Hands down, best thing anyone has ever said to me.  And in my opinion, not at all true.  I regularly feel like I am teetering on the edge of insanity as I listen to my kids start fighting, (within the first five minutes of being awake), about who gets to sit on which side of me on the couch.  However, if I manage to give the impression that I am patient, then I am at least outwardly doing a better job than I think.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I am the world’s worst parent.  Most days, I do think I handle discipline, play and education with relative success.  But, other days… I want to cry.

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Parenting is hard.  Anyone who tells you it’s not is either in denial or lying.  I expected it to be hard, but there are certain things that are WAY harder than I anticipated.  And those are generally the things I have to struggle with every day.  The things that make me feel my least patient and effective as a parent.

Meal time for example.  There is no such thing as a simple meal with Nora.  It doesn’t matter what I give her.  It could be her favorite food.  If it is not a sweet of some kind it will inevitably take almost an hour to get her to eat.  Our meals go like this:

Nora: How many bites do I need to take?

Me: You need to eat the whole thing, it’s not that much.

Nora: But, my belly feels sick.

Me: You shouldn’t say your belly is sick when it’s not.  I won’t believe you when it’s true if you lie now.

Nora: But, how many bites?

Me: Just eat.

Nora: What kind of treat can I have?

Me: Take a bite.

Nora: But, my belly is full.

Me: Then we can save this for later, but you aren’t going to get a treat if you don’t eat dinner.

Nora: But, how many bites do I need to eat to get a treat?

Repeat over and over again.  Admit it… you are stressed just reading this aren’t you?

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Nora also struggles with constipation issues.  This existed even before food, so it’s not 100% diet related, but her lack of veggies and fruit definitely doesn’t help matters.  I don’t know how parents of truly chronically ill kids do it because it literally hurts my heart every time I have to resort to giving her an enema.  I hate hearing her cry and beg me not to, knowing that I can’t apologize for it because it needs to be done.

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And then there is Meredith, who is the first of my kid’s to require time out in public.  She isn’t that out of control, so it’s not often, but it has happened.  And it usually solves whatever behavior problem we were having, so while never fun, it is necessary from time to time.

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And the bickering… this is the ultimate in stress producing behavior.  If you are one of the lucky ones who has kids that get along, you should be saying prayers of thanks every day.  When my two play together nicely, it is super sweet and so incredible to watch.  But, 90% of the time, it is constant whining and complaining about who had what toy first, who hit or poked who, and yes, even whose Mommy I am.  It’s exhausting.  There are definitely days when everyone (including myself) gets sent to their rooms for a mandatory 10 minutes of quiet time.  Sometimes, it is the only way everyone survives the day.

So, yes, having someone tell me I am patient with the girls meant a lot to me.  As parents, the stressful moments tend to stand out in our days.  We relive them and wonder what could have been done better or differently.  We gloss over the good moments.  That time we managed to explain away their fears or stop tears with a little bit of Mommy magic is forgotten as we struggle to take a deep breath and calmly tell them once again that we need them to eat, listen, or be nice to each other.  An observation, especially unprompted, by someone on the outside can mean the world to a parent who is sometimes too enmeshed in the situation to see the good.

So, on my really stressful days, I remind myself that I have the ability to be patient with my children.  I may not be successful 100% of the time, but I can do it.  Sometimes, simply remembering that goes a long way in winning the battle.

Death and Dying

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Depressing subject right?

But, it is part of life and as I have recently encountered (earlier than I anticipated), it is part of parenting.

If I am going to be 100% honest, on a personal level, death terrifies me.  I mean, makes me hyperventilate if I give it serious thought, kind of terrifying.  So, for the most part I avoid really thinking about it.  I figure denial and avoidance are genuinely the best route for me to go on this one.

Ironically, I am around death on a fairly regular basis due to work and I am actually comfortable with it (to the extent that one can be comfortable with such a thing) in that setting.  That isn’t to say that it doesn’t make me sad or regretful.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t get scared about the reality and inevitability of it as my heart breaks for those living it.  But, I can talk about it, “explain it”, touch it, support others through it… all with relative confidence.  There are nights that I lay awake processing the experiences I have on the job, but for the most part it is just that, part of the job.

All of that being said, I was still caught off guard yesterday when Nora asked me if I was going to die.  And later that evening, out of nowhere, she said “I don’t want you to die, because I love you so much.”  It made my heart hurt.

I am not entirely sure where this recent line of questioning is coming from.  (She also asked my husband the same question this afternoon completely out of the blue.)  I don’t shy away from the subject necessarily.  I believe in using words like death and die with my children, accompanied by developmentally appropriate explanations of what that means.  When our dogs die, I will be honest with them about that as well.  Nora knows that the great grandfather holding her in one of her baby pictures is dead.  But, it’s not like we talk about it all the time.  I certainly didn’t realize that she has been processing this in terms of us, her parents.  I hate the fact that she is obviously feeling vulnerable and worried, even if she doesn’t understand what this means completely at the age of four.

And no number of hours on the job prepared me emotionally for how I felt when she asked me if I was going to die.  Being a parent, especially to young children, adds a whole different dimension to my thoughts and feelings about death.  I just hope that I can provide reassurance and comfort to both of my kids as they struggle with this complex subject and what it means.  And I hope that I am not lying when I tell her that we both have a very long life ahead of us before we have to worry about dying.

As much as I don’t want to think about death, I really don’t want my kids to have to.

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Blog Sharing

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http://www.handsfreemama.com/

Today, I am just sharing this link to another mother’s blog.  The things she writes resonate strongly with me.

Dear Nora on Your 4th Birthday

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2013

Dear Nora,

You are going to be four this weekend little girl and what an amazing year this has been.  Every time I think that there is no way I could be more amazed at the way you change, you surprise me again and again.  For example, once upon a time, you didn’t really like the swings and were afraid to go very high at all and now you will go as high as your Daddy and I can push you.  At the beginning of the summer, you were still learning how to pedal your bikes by yourself, but now you fly around the neighborhood on your big wheel and even ride a two wheeler with training wheels on it.  You also started out this summer, terrified of water, refusing to jump in, get your face wet or let go of us while in the pool.  By August, you were swimming good distances in both the baby pool and big pool at the YMCA with your face in, paddling and kicking with no fear.  You just decided you wanted to do it and so you did.

Your favorite thing to do this summer was go to the water park at Kings Island.  You like the side with the rides as well, (and even rode the “Beastie” roller coaster once), but I think your favorite was the smaller water slides and fountains in Soak City.  We also took you to your first Reds game, your first Oktoberfest and to Sea World, where you fell in love with the orca whales.  You now want to be a “fish feeder” when you grow up because to you, that means you will get to touch the orcas.  We spent the 4th of July down in Jacksonville and you really enjoyed the experience of the fireworks at the beach, which made me happy because that is a good memory I have from my own childhood.

Probably the biggest change this year is that you started preschool.  You are going to Villa Madonna Montessori and you seem to be really happy there.  You were so proud of yourself on that first day of school.  When we picked you up from school, you did inform us that you were disappointed because they didn’t teach you to read, but since then you have started to learn more about the sounds the different letters make, so I don’t think reading will be that far off.  You have also started adding numbers together and I was quite impressed at how well you were able to cut a circle one of the first times you used scissors.  Of course, you later used those same scissors to cut some of your own hair, but I guess that is a right of passage, even though it makes me sad to see those chopped bangs that you gave yourself.  You know the Pledge of Allegiance by heart and hearing you recite that is the cutest thing ever.

The other day, you were telling me how excited you were that you were learning so many new things these days.  I told you that it made me happy to see you learning and growing, but that it also made me sad because I wanted you to stay my baby.  You assured me that you weren’t going to get big for a while.  “At least 20 days”, you said.  And while I know I have longer than 20 days before you are grown, I do often wish I could freeze time and savor each moment with you a little longer.  Watching your children grow is frustrating that way, but it is also incredibly rewarding.

This year we are celebrating your birthday by taking you to see Disney on Ice.  Then, we will take you to get a birthday cupcake, as you still have an obsession for cupcakes.  I am really looking forward to your big day.  I can’t wait to experience it through your eyes and feel your happiness and excitement.  It’s been an incredible four years, sweet girl.  Thank you for making my life so wonderful.

I love you,

Mommy

Musings on Parenting a Toddler

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The other day in Meredith’s gymnastics class I found myself paying extra attention to the interactions between all of the parents in the class (myself included) and their two year old children.  As I listened to all of the exchanges between parent and child, it led me to wonder this… why is it that we, as parents, become completely humiliated by the behavior of our own two year old, but view the same behavior as normal and acceptable in others?

I can’t begin to tell you the number of times that I have reassured a fellow parent that it was not only their child behaving in a certain way.  I feel bad when I see a parent get upset with their toddler, when I witnessed the entire exchange and know for a fact that my own toddler was as much, if not more to blame for the toddler altercation.  A kid behaves a certain way, getting reprimands from his/her parent and I often find myself saying, “Oh, they all do it.  Don’t worry about it.”

And this is true.  I know that it is completely normal for a two year old to not share well, not wait his/her turn and have complete meltdowns for the most insignificant reasons.  I don’t think less of the parents of these children.  In fact, it often makes me feel better to know it’s not just my kid.  But, when the behavior originates from my child, I am right there with those other parents, apologizing for her behavior and trying to make it stop.  Why does it feel so much more epic when it’s your own?

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I am not saying that because most of this behavior is normal that we should ignore it.  I do believe there are still lessons to be taught and parents should take advantage of those opportunities to teach.  But, that isn’t exactly what is going on.  You can almost hear the panic in their voices, that fear that someone might think their child is undisciplined or rude.  Maybe it’s because what everyone is seeing is just a snapshot of your life.  You don’t want them to walk away with the impression that this is what your child is like all the time.

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It is interesting though because even as we all engage in this knee-jerk reaction to parenting, there is also a sort of fraternity that develops from it.  No one else understands what you are handling on a daily basis quite like another parent.

One of the mother’s in the gymnastics class arrived looking frazzled and made some comments about the difficult morning she had just trying to convince her daughter to put clothes on.  It made me smile.  Not because they had a rough morning.  But, because I have been there.

Rediscovering Meredith

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Let’s talk about Meredith.

Meredith was born during one of the rainiest Spring seasons I can remember, but she was such a ray of sunshine.  As a newborn, she was calm and easy.  She didn’t sleep well at night but otherwise, she was such a great baby.  She ate well, was easy to take places and adored her older sister and her Daddy.  She has always been a Daddy’s girl.

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Meredith has grown to be sweet and sassy, stubborn and loud.  She is cuddly and smart, rough and tumble.  I am not sure when her calm demeanor left her, but she roared into her toddler years with a vengeance.  She has spent a lot of her toddler life in “time out” and there is very little that is delicate about her now.  She is not lacking in personality… at all.

Since Nora has started preschool, I feel like I have been given a gift.  I am getting to know my youngest in a much different way.  Experiencing Meredith without the competition and sibling rivalry is amazing.  I have always known that she is insightful and perceptive.  I have always known that she takes intense joy in the world around her as she does nothing and feels nothing without a ton of energy and passion behind it.  I have always known that she is affectionate and gives the absolute best full on bear hugs on the planet.  I know that she is funny and spunky and adventurous.  I know Meredith.

But, the reality is that without the one on one time, I haven’t been able to fully appreciate it.  In our mornings together we are able to play, read and have conversations with each other.  We enjoy each other.  I am treasuring this time with my youngest and feel guilty that I haven’t given her this type of attention before now.  That I didn’t realize this was something we both needed.

Recently, we enrolled Meredith in gymnastics.

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She loves it.  She talks about it all week and calls it her “school” or her “nastics”.  I love watching her in her class and experiencing this new adventure with her.

I am incredibly grateful for both of my children, but I am so glad I am getting to know and spend time with my youngest right now.  She is still my little ray of sunshine.