I Stopped Making Our Easter Egg Hunt “Fair”

Up until this year, I made sure the Easter bunny set up a “fair” egg hunt on Easter morning. Usually it was color coded and each child was assigned a color in a special note. It was easy and I didn’t have to worry about anyone being upset.

But this year, my priorities changed. This year, I just finished reading the book “UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World” by Dr. Michele Borba.  It is about empathy, and how important it is in being successful and happy. And how emotional intelligence and kindness are important factors in developing empathy.

And it made me think about my priorities as a parent. And our priorities as a family.

So we remodeled our Easter egg hunt.

The oldest is currently six, so she is old enough to notice the change; therefore, the shift required some explanation.

When Easter morning came and she noticed the absence of a note, I played along.

“Oh Lex, that’s really special that there is no note this year.”

“It is?”

“Yep. That means the Easter bunny has been watching you and he thinks you are ready.  It’s kind of like graduating. The Easter bunny has noticed how kind and generous you are. So this year, instead of him making sure the egg hunt is fair, he is leaving it up to you. It will be your job to make sure your little sisters get to find some eggs and that you all get to share the candy and eggs in a way that makes everyone feel good.”

She didn’t need more explanation than that. Kids are awesome that way.

And suddenly Easter morning turned into a beautiful lesson in kindness and empathy.

The oldest had to think about her siblings. She had to stop herself from taking all the easy eggs. She had to notice if they were having fun and feeling good about their own eggs.

Sure, she needed a little guidance. Because paying attention to other people and being kind is something we need a little help learning how to do. I helped by pointing out that leaving the easy eggs was a thoughtful thing to do and helping her to read the toddler’s feelings.

“Oh look, she is happy playing with the eggs she has. I think it’s okay for you to go finish hunting now.”

And it turned out to be even better than if I had made it fair. The toddler didn’t care if she got the same number of eggs. She got to hunt a few and then was perfectly happy to eat jelly beans. She wasn’t counting. And we didn’t have to force her into hunting the rest of “her” eggs.

And the oldest loved hunting eggs, so she got the thrill of finding the majority AND the emotional reward of being thoughtful of others and generous with her eggs. And since it wasn’t set up as a competition but rather as a collective effort, the oldest wasn’t counting eggs either. Everyone was perfectly happy with what they had.

Which was beautiful. But the best part? I didn’t have to police the egg hunt. I got to sit and relax and watch my kids enjoy the magic of Easter morning.

Overall, it was an awesome success. My oldest was proud to be recognized for her kindness and the younger two saw a great example of empathy and sharing in their big sister.

I have a feeling I’m going to like this new Easter tradition.

Celebrating One Hurdle at a Time

That smile <3

This week, I’m celebrating my toddler.

Not long ago, she was in the thick of the “stranger danger” phase. If someone looked at her or talked to her other than her dad or me, she would hide behind her arm or burst into tears or both. Going places was challenging, particularly now with a little sister in tow, because in any situation that made her even slightly uncomfortable she would plant her feet and not move unless she was being held. At doctor’s appointments I often couldn’t even carry on a conversation with the doctor because she was crying so hard. When someone came over to visit it was almost impossible to be social because she was so upset.

This phase lasted a long time. And I was beginning to feel like it would never end and that I had surely damaged my child by sheltering her at home with me rather than shipping her off to daycare. I had no idea what to do. Frankly, I didn’t even know how to ask google what to do.

But I decided to try a few things anyway. First, she started going to a speech therapist once a week, which has been an amazing experience because she gets to go out to a new place and have positive interactions with another adult while I’m still in the room for comfort if needed. When we first went, she cowered in my lap for most of the first session. This morning, the only time she acknowledged that I was there was to ask me for help getting the lid off the toy container.

And we also signed up for the toddler art class at our local children’s museum. This has been such an amazing resource because it provides a no-pressure opportunity for her to socialize with a group of kids and adults. They sit and listen to a story, do a short activity and a quick art project and then they are done and free to go play in the museum. If she isn’t feeling it, we head back out to the museum. So far we have only been twice, but I think she will get more comfortable each time we go.

This has definitely been one of those parenting challenges where I didn’t know where to start so I just started. And now I’m glad I did, because looking back on the situation, I think having her not only branch out and have new experiences but to keep repeating those experiences weekly so that she has time to build up a comfort level has been so good for her.

Last week we attended a crowded pancake feed. She normally would have panicked in the crowd, but she did great and loved the pancakes. She came with me to her little sister’s appointment and said “hi” and “bye” to the therapist without acting shy. She walked everywhere on her own without me needing to carry her.

We’ve also been working on her following directions and her attention span, mostly because these skills are more important now that she is developing her newfound independence. Several times this week, when I asked her to pick up the toys she had been playing with, she did so without needing a lot of extra prompting.

So basically, this post is one giant bragfest about my rockstar toddler. There were several times after her little sister was born that I felt like the toddler made things more difficult than the newborn did. But this week, as I watch her grow into this new bravery and responsibility, as I see her learning and using the skills we have been working on, my heart swells with pride. I’m so excited for her to show the world what I have seen all along–a joyful, sweet, sometimes mischievous little soul with the best laugh and a heart of gold.

A few month ago I thought we might never get over this hurdle. But this week it feels like there is a light at the end of this tunnel.

And it’s so worth the wait.

The Things My Children Teach Me

At the risk of revealing too much of my crunchy side, one of the things you should know about me is that I believe people come into our lives for a reason. In fact, the lyrics of the song “For Good” from the musical “Wicked” say it best:

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return

When I think of some of the most significant people in my life, I can often guess what it is they have come into my life to teach me.

And even though our society doesn’t typically emphasize children as “teachers”, some of the biggest lessons of my life have come through my children.

My oldest is teaching me about authenticity and strength. At the time she was born, I was in a marriage that wasn’t healthy for either of us. But I stayed because it was what other people told me was the right thing to do. After she came along, I started thinking like a mother. I wanted to give her the world. I wanted her to be happy. Most of all, I wanted her to be herself. I didn’t want to change her, I wanted to discover her. Because I could see from the beginning that she was perfect exactly the way she was.

But how could I teach this tiny human to be true to herself if I wasn’t living that example?

It wasn’t an easy decision. And even after I finally decided it was, in fact, the right decision, it wasn’t easy to follow through with it. But I did. Because I wanted better for her. I didn’t ever want her to be unhappy because of someone else’s opinion about her life. I wanted her to learn to live a life that felt authentic to her, even if it didn’t align with the opinions of those around her. Wanting that for her gave me the strength to finally live my own life that way.

Now I am constantly striving to see and honor my children for the people they are without trying to turn them into what I (or society) thinks they should be. It’s a lesson I will be learning for the rest of my life.

My middle child is teaching me about love. Obviously all of my children have each taught me something about love. The middle child just has a certain unique way of stretching my heart in ways it hasn’t been stretched before.

I still remember the moment in the delivery room, the first time I laid eyes on her. It felt like gravity shifted beneath me. I was head over heels for her from the very beginning. Even through her challenging toddler behavior, I’m still mesmerized by her. The color of her eyes. The curls in her hair. Her fingers, her toes. I cherish every inch of this child for the miracle she is. She reminds me daily to slow down and notice these sacred moments with all my children. She reminds me not to take milestones for granted. She opens my heart in ways I didn’t even know I needed. She makes me a better mother, not just for her but for all my children.

And some day she will teach me about loving and letting go. Perhaps it is because my oldest always went to daycare, so I was used to her having her own independence, and my middle is the first child I’ve stayed home with for her entire life. But I dread the days of being away from her. I dread her starting preschool and school. I don’t remember life without her by my side. But being her mother means it is up to me to help her learn how to be without me. So I will do what I need to for her, no matter how much it hurts.

Love is complicated like that. But that’s what she is here to help me learn.

My youngest baby is teaching me about humility. She’s showing me that I know less now, as I’m raising my third child, than I did when I started. She’s showing me that this parenting thing isn’t something that has a “right” or a “wrong” way to it. That every child is different and every parent is different with every child and that sometimes just doing the best you can is the best you can do.

She’s teaching me about asking for help. About not being ashamed when I can’t do it all. About not being ashamed to admit (often publicly on my blog) that I can’t do it all.

Humility may not sound like a complicated lesson to learn, but in many ways it is the most complicated of all the lessons I am learning. She’s pushing me to discover my own limitations, and helping me make peace with them. She’s helping me to be more graceful with myself and others. Lessons about love, patience, generosity and respect are all wrapped up in learning about humility. Lessons about peace. For being the smallest of my children, she appears to have brought with her some of the biggest lessons. Which isn’t surprising, considering what I know of her personality so far.

Even though we are still only just beginning this learning journey, the list of things my children have already taught me and will continue to teach me is more than I could ever capture in a simple blog post. And while I know the lessons won’t always come easy, I’m grateful for the privilege of learning.

Because I couldn’t have asked for better teachers.

 

It’s Harder for Her

Okay, friends. It’s real-talk time.

We are in the trenches with this baby. She still won’t sleep through the night. Which I could probably handle if that was the only thing, because she typically gets up only once. However, her new thing is to get up at 4 a.m. ish. And then after I feed her and get her laid back down, I lay back down and toss and turn, and about the time I start to fall back asleep shortly after 5 a.m., she wakes up AGAIN. And this time she stays up. Sometimes for several hours. Which means I basically start my day at 4 a.m.

Let’s just say, I have discovered there is a certain amount of sleep I need to be a decent parent (notice I said “decent”. I’m not even setting the bar that high here, people.) And getting up at 4 a.m. doesn’t give me that amount of sleep. On these days, survival depends on the husband letting me sneak a little morning nap before he goes to work.

Survival. That’s where we are at. Still. After nearly seven months, we are still in survival mode more day than I can count. I thought it was supposed to be easier by now. Or at least, I thought we would have short periods of relief here and there. But it seems like we jump back and forth between hard and harder.

After nearing two months of trying to feed her solids and her flat out refusing (clamping her mouth down, dodging away from the spoon), we are now seeing a therapist in hopes that will help. After going through a brief period of h-e double hockey sticks trying to get her to self-sooth so she could fall asleep on her own we are back to rocking her to sleep. She still doesn’t do that great in the carseat or at keeping a binkie in her mouth. It just feels like everything is hard with this child. Harder than it should be.

This morning was no different. The day started at 4 a.m. with a feeding, and after a failed attempt to fall back asleep I was up for the day at 5:30. After another feeding and then getting milk barfed all over me, I was in tears. Why is this so hard? It breaks my heart that I’m frustrated with my own baby. It breaks my heart that I’m not strong enough to handle this gracefully.

Luckily, the husband came to the rescue and I went back to bed for long enough that the desperate thoughts retreated back to their dark corners for the time being. Feeling slightly more ready to handle the day, the husband headed off to work.

Then the baby pooped and the toddler pooped and the toddler needed a snack and the baby started whining and I realized I hadn’t eaten breakfast. So I changed diapers and gave snacks and rocked the baby to sleep. I went to lay her down in her room so that I could finally get something to eat, and she woke up on the way there.

Ug.

So I tried laying her down awake, hoping that she was tired enough to fall back asleep.

She laid there for just long enough to get my hopes up and then started fussing. But we were already committed now and I wanted to follow through until she was asleep. So I went back, cuddled her until she was almost asleep again, and laid her back down.

Same thing. Back and forth between the baby upstairs and the toddler downstairs.

After several trips, I stood in the living room next to the monitor and the fussing started up again and I felt myself beginning to crumble. I pressed my hands to my eyes and I begged, “God, please. Please give me strength. Please help me be a better mom than this.”

And then I looked down at the monitor and she stopped crying, stroked her blankie and fell asleep. And in the relief of the silence, I thought, “This is harder for her than it is for me.”

Sometimes all I need is a change in perspective and everything feels different. This was one of those moments.

This is hard for me, but it is harder for her. Everything is new and she is figuring out how her body works and she doesn’t understand the waves of feelings that she can’t control. She doesn’t know what’s going on or what the point of the mushy baby food is or that car seat rides won’t last forever. She doesn’t understand why mom is so frustrated.

This is hard for her. And I’m the one who can help make it easier. But I’ve been too caught up in my own feelings to think about hers.

Sigh. Not my finest mama moment.

Luckily, it’s not even 10 a.m. I still have time to do better today.

I have time to be more patient at meal time when she refuses the spoon yet again.

I have time to be more patient when naps don’t go the way I wish they would.

I have time to be loving when the toddler throws a fit, because being a toddler is hard too.

I have time to be compassionate with the 1st grader when she tells me about her day, because being a 1st grader is hard.

I have time to do better.

These parenting face-palm moments, the ones where I am embarrassed to have needed to be reminded of something I already knew, the ones where I wish I had done better… these moments are not fun.

But I’m grateful for the reminder.

Because today I will do better.

 

 

If I Cherished Every Moment, I Would Lose My Mind

All three kids have been sick this last week. Nothing too major, just runny noses and coughs all around. So I knew it was just a matter of time.

And sure enough, I woke up this morning with a sore throat. On a Monday morning no less. I picked up my phone out of habit to do my morning scroll through social media, already composing my status update regarding the latest development in our family health saga.

And then something made me pause. And I thought, “Huh. It feels like I’ve been complaining on social media and the blogosphere a lot lately.” The baby still won’t sleep. The toddler hates being sick and won’t let me put her down. The six year old has a lot of really hard complicated questions and also has a lot of feelings to navigate, both of which seem to make their appearance only at bedtime.

And now everyone has been sick and the laundry still isn’t put away from last weekend and it’s Monday morning and we have to start a new week and I’m not ready.

So yeah. It feels like I’ve been complaining a lot lately. Then I started to wonder, “What if the people who read my blogs and status updates think I hate being a parent?”

And I immediately felt guilty. I don’t want to be the one who complains all the time. I don’t want it to seem like I’m not grateful for this amazing motherhood journey. I love being a parent more than anything in the world. What if I’m unintentionally leaving a legacy of whining for my children?

And I felt terrible for a little while as I considered that possibility.

But then I considered the alternative.

Of course I’d love to put nothing but sunshine and roses and inspiration out into my digital corner of the world.

But that wouldn’t be the whole truth. That wouldn’t be parenthood.

Because the whole truth is that, even though I love being a parent more than anything, the hard days are real. And they are hard.

So even though I’m supposed to be cherishing every moment, I’m not.

I’m not because some of the moments suck and I don’t want to cherish them. It’s just that simple. Waiting in the doctor’s office to find out what the mysterious rash is? Sorry, not cherishing that. Barely sleeping all night because stuffy noses are making both the toddler and the baby gag and cough and choke in their sleep? No thank you, not cherishing that either.

And then there are moments that I probably would cherish if I wasn’t so tired from wiping noses and being sick and mentally gearing up for a Monday morning that came a little too soon. I’d love to savor every snuggle, find the joy in them needing me so much, cherish their littleness for every moment of the day. But I’m human and sometimes I miss the moment.

The real problem with cherishing every moment is that my heart just isn’t big enough.

You see, if I really let myself feel how big these little moments are, my heart would break.

If I let myself realize how fleeting this time is. If I consider how fragile and precious these little lives are. If I remind myself what an honor it truly is to be a mother to these humans. If I reflect on what a miracle this life is and what miracles these little bodies are.

If I let myself think about how much I’m going to miss this, how much my heart is going to break when these days of “little” are gone, the time when this phase is over and I know it won’t ever come back.

If I let myself feel, truly feel, how much I love these little people. My heart would break. I would lose my mind trying to slow it all down, take it all in, savor every second. It would be too much.

So instead I cherish some of the moments. I really cherish them. I let myself catch tiny glimpses of the magnitude of motherhood. I let myself be in awe of all this love for the miracle of these little lives.

And the rest of the time I let myself off the hook for missing a moment or worse, intentionally distracting myself to get through the hardest moments.

Because the truth is I can’t cherish them all even if I wanted to. My heart just isn’t big enough.

 

The Weekend Conversation That Made My Brain Tired

Since I can’t take a picture of a conversation, here is a picture of the girl’s haunted house model we made over the weekend. Also, thanks to the hot glue gun I have blisters instead of fingerprints.

I’ve notice that when kids get older, their questions and issues become more complex. It’s actually a form of balance when you think about it: sure, they’re letting you sleep more but now they’re frying your brain during the day so you often feel as if you still can’t get enough sleep.

Kids, man. (Read: affectionate sarcasm)

The six year old and I attended the high school musical “Oklahoma” this weekend, which I had forgotten was actually full of content that is probably a little much for a six year old (flirting, dating, abuse, fighting, relationship drama of all kinds, etc.). So I probably should be grateful that the conversations from the weekend weren’t actually any worse than this one.

It started at the musical. The six year old was happily chatting away with my dear friend, and explaining to my dear friend’s mother that the “dad” she was referring to at home was actually her step dad.

Sometimes, when she gets on a roll in conversations, my little linguist can get a bit carried away. I should have seen it coming. She has a certain look on her face and an added dramatic flair when she is about to say something that will surely elicit a shock factor from her audience. But I didn’t catch the shift in time to get my hand over her mouth before she belted out that the reason he was her step dad was, in fact, because her mom “got divorced and HUMILIATED herself!” (Except she pronounces it “di-versed” because she is six and does not know as much as she thinks she does. Shocking.)

I laughed and jokingly (seriously) told her that the topic was now closed while I tried to regain my composure and resisted the urge to crawl under the auditorium chairs.

The next day at lunch, the opportunity to reopen the conversation presented itself.

 

Me: Do you remember what you said yesterday at the musical when you were talking about your dad and me getting divorced?

Her: About you humiliating yourself?

Me: Yes. Do you know what that word means?

Her: Um…. Not really.

Me: Okay… well, it’s not a good idea to use words if you don’t know what they mean. You should be careful about what you say and you can’t do that if you’re using words you don’t know.

Her: Okay.

Me: So, what it is that you were trying to say when you said I humiliated myself?

Her: I guess just that you, like, embarrassed yourself because some people think that divorce is embarrassing.

Me: (what is that candy bar that you cram in your mouth when you need a few minutes to think before responding? Twix?)

Me: Hmm. Okay, well I think the first think that I need to tell you is that I don’t feel embarrassed about getting divorced.

Her: You don’t?

Me: Nope. You dad and I thought very carefully about what the right thing to do before we got divorced was. In the end, we decided that it was the best decision for us as a family, and for us as parents. As your mom, I wanted to make sure that I was being the best mom I could be to you. That meant setting an example for you. If I was ever going to expect you to be kind to others and to expect others to treat you with kindness, then I needed to model that behavior. And for your dad and I, it was much easier to be kind to each other after we got divorced.

There are other people who feel that getting divorced is embarrassing. They feel that, if you get married, you should stay married forever. And it’s okay that different people believe different things. I don’t like divorce, because it is a very hard thing to go through. It is better to stay married if you can. But I also believe that sometimes it isn’t that simple, and that you have to make the best choice that you can for your own family.

So that is what your dad and I did. I’m not embarrassed because I still think that we made a good choice. Your dad and I are much better parents to you now, and we are much nicer to each other. And, now you have even more people who love you and help take care of you. Our family has grown.

And lastly, I know I’m talking a lot about this so I will give you a chance to talk after I say this. But I need you to hear one more thing: It’s not up to you to decide what is “humiliating” or embarrassing for someone else. You get to decide what your own feelings are about things, but you don’t get to decide what someone else’s feelings are. So when you talk about big things like divorce, you need to be thoughtful about how you talk about someone else’s decision. It’s not up to you to decide what is embarrassing for someone else. Do you understand what I’m saying?

Her: I understand. I’m sorry I said that. Can I have a snack now?

Me: We are literally still at the lunch table.

 

And then I reminded myself of all the reasons why it wouldn’t be in my best interests to drink wine out of a straw in the middle of the day.

Ug, you guys. These complicated conversations with kids are so hard and I almost always feel like I never get it right. But that seems to be the trend in parenting for me.The thing is I’m also pretty sure this was small potatoes compared to the complex conversations that await us in the future.

But that doesn’t make my brain hurt any less.

One Hundred Nice Things

The oldest came home from school sad. Some other kids had said things that hurt her feelings.

Y’all, there is so much about parenting that is hard. But knowing someone else hurt your baby in any way, that’s pretty close to the top of the list.

It’s hard because it just plain sucks that you can’t protect them all the time.

But it’s also hard to know how to react when they tell you about it. My first instinct was to try to downplay what they had said. “Maybe they were joking.” “Maybe they were having a bad day.” etc. I thought maybe if she could understand that if someone was mean to her it was about their actions, not anything she had done wrong to deserve it, then it wouldn’t hurt so much.

But then I sounded like I was making excuses for them. And I didn’t want to do that because I also want her to know that there’s no excuse for them being mean to her.

And then I thought about trying to make it better by cheering her up. “You’re amazing and you’re tough and you don’t need to listen to anyone who is mean to you. Period.”

But then it felt like I was trying to talk her out of her feelings. And I didn’t want to do that. Because the truth is, it does suck when people say things that hurt. Feeling sad is normal and it’s a perfectly acceptable feeling. I didn’t want her to feel like there was anything wrong with how she was feeling in this situation.

So instead, I just listened. Mostly because I didn’t know what else to do. But looking back now, I think it might have been the best thing I could have done. I listened and I acknowledged her feelings. “That sucks that someone said that. I’m sorry that happened. I would feel sad too. I wish we had a magic remote to control how other people treated us, too.”

And then I decided that, for every mean thing I heard someone else say to her, I was going to make it a point to say one hundred nice things.

I was going to tell her that I’m happy I get to sit by her at dinner. That I loved how well she was doing with her handwriting. That I was proud of her for tackling her homework right away after school. That I thought the flower she added to her hair was beautiful. That she was an amazing sister. That she made me laugh every day with her quick wit. That I appreciated her help. That her hair smelled nice. That I liked the pajamas she picked after bath.

One hundred nice things, even if they were the simplest of compliments.

Turns out, it’s actually not that hard. Kids are beautifully easy to compliment. They soak up love like a sponge.

I still don’t know what the best way to handle her hurt feelings is. But I do know that I can make sure she hears one hundred times more nice things than mean ones.

And, for now, I can still gather her up in my arms at the end of the day and hold her. And I can hope that showering her in love will make her strong enough to go back out into the world tomorrow with renewed optimism. I can hope that my love will be the voice that stays in her head above any others. I can hope that it makes her resilient enough to not only protect her from unkindness but to prevent her from spreading that unkindness to others, as we sometimes do when someone is unkind to us.

I can’t always protect her, but I can love her with all my might.

Maybe, in a way, that is better.

Parenting a Child With a Speech Delay

My girl <3

 

My two year old has been in speech therapy for a few weeks now. I debated whether to sign her up for it or not. As a parent it’s easy to say, “Oh, she’ll be fine. She’ll talk when she’s ready. She’s not that far behind. She’s only two.” And that would have been really easy to do because she really isn’t that far behind and she probably would have been fine either way.

But sometimes a mama’s intuition kicks in and won’t let up. Something in my brain kept telling me that she might just need a little extra boost and that the sooner we can get her caught back up the better. I knew she had things she was trying to tell us and the words just weren’t putting themselves together, so it was time to see if speech therapy would help. (Plus our community has a crazy amazing free speech-therapy program called the Rite Care Clinic, so there was no reason not to check it out.)

And I’m really glad we did. Our speech therapist, Emily, is awesome. Not only is she working with my toddler on language skills, but also on social skills and things like paying attention and completing a task. Since I’m a stay at home mama, having another adult interact with her on a regular basis has been so good for her. And it’s been good for me to get some new ideas on ways to work with her at home.

Even though we are still at the beginning of this journey, there’s a lot I’m learning about what it’s like to be a parent to a kiddo that needs a little extra push in the speech department.

First, I feel powerless. A lot. So often she will look at me and say something and wait expectantly for me to respond. But I just can’t quite always piece together what it is she is telling me. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than watching your child try to connect with you and you can’t understand. So when we finally do get it right…

Every little victory is a big victory. This week, the two year old’s word for milk, “mna”, turned into “milaka”. This may not seem like anything at all, but to me, it feels huge. Not only did she add the “L” sound, but she also added the “K” sound. Now she has all the sounds for the word, she just needs a little bit longer to perfect her pronunciation. After weeks of hearing “mna” despite our best efforts to persuade more sounds, this feels like a huge win. And then I have to remind myself that…

It’s easy to underestimate her just because I can’t understand her. Often times I am blown away when I realize how much she knows and understands. She recognizes most of her letters and all of her numbers up to twelve. She has the entire Frozen soundtrack memorized, as well as most of the songs on the toddler radio Pandora station, and now she is working on memorizing the Moana soundtrack. She memorizes the books we read to her and can read them back to us. But because she can’t tell me what’s going on in her sweet brain, I often find myself underestimating what she is capable of. And what’s worse, I see other people doing it, too. So I’m doing my best to stop underestimating her, because as her mama it’s my job to believe in her. Luckily…

She is resilient.  The more she starts to pronounce words in a way we can understand them, the more we realize she hasn’t just been babbling all this time. She has been saying things, we just haven’t been understanding them. For example, for several weeks now she has been saying “teekabah”. She doesn’t say it all the time, but I’ve heard it enough to know that she is trying to say something. Last night at dinner, she offered her toy a bite of her food and said it again, but this time with just enough enunciation for me to hear it. “Take a bite!!” I yelled. “She is saying ‘Take a bite!'” My husband and I laughed. Of course she was. At dinner we are constantly reminding her to keep taking bites. Luckily, just because we didn’t get it right away, she didn’t give up.

And thank goodness, because…

It’s worth the wait. We are nowhere near the point where she is fluently speaking. Most people can’t understand half of what she is talking about yet. But every day we get closer. Every day we have little victories. She is finally starting to put two words together, like “choc milaka” for chocolate milk. She is getting clearer in what she says and we are understanding more and more. And it seems that the more we understand, the more she wants to talk.

I can’t wait for the day when I can finally understand everything she is trying to tell me, when I can get a clearer glimpse into everything that’s going on in her bright little mind. I already know it will be worth the wait.

 

 

The Days That Should Be The Hardest

Baby’s First Stuffy Nose #milestones

Both the little kids have a cold, generously passed down from their big sister.

This isn’t the toddlers first rodeo, so she is mostly a trooper. She’s a bit of a zombie and her nose runs like a faucet so I’m constantly harassing her with Kleenex and saline spray but she mostly goes about her business as usually with maybe a few extra snuggles required. Until suddenly she doesn’t anymore and she needs me RIGHT NOW and little problems feel like even bigger problems than they normally would be for a toddler.

Meanwhile, the baby is basking in the milestone of her first official cold. Her nose is runny. And, much like her toddler sibling, her feelings are much bigger than usual. She cries her saddest cry if not picked up quickly enough, if asked to burp after a meal, or if put in the carseat or kept awake for too long.

As I was snuggling her to sleep in one arm while pulling an emotional toddler into the rocking chair with us with the other arm today, I couldn’t help but think that this should be one of those hard days of parenting. Confined to the house with two needy sick kids in a pool of germs should be enough to send anyone over the edge.

And don’t get me wrong, it was not easy. I repeat, NOT EASY.

But instead of drowning in stress in these moments today, I found myself filled with gratitude.

To be honest, the feeling surprised me. Of all the wonderful, beautiful, gratitude inspiring moments of motherhood, I didn’t expect to be overcome with love while under a pile of crying, snot-covered children. Yet there I was.

Since then I’ve been thinking about it and trying to figure out why that was my reaction in that moment.

And I’m not sure it’s something I can explain.

The closest I can come to an explanation is to say this: that helping them feel better reminds me what a privilege it is to be a mother.

I get to be the one their tear filled eyes look for first. I get to be the lap they long to crawl into. I get the awesome privilege and responsibility of being the one they rely on to help them when things are tough.

Most days they look to me for their basic needs. I am the one who changes the diapers, the one who drives the car and retrieves the Legos off the top shelf and the one who rescues blankie from the dryer. I am the Keeper of the Snacks. I know the importance of this work, but for the most part, in its day to day setting, it is thankless work. And that’s okay.

But when they are sick, their needs take on a whole new level of urgency, and thus, my work takes on a new level of importance. When the nose has been suctioned clean and saline spray has been administered and vapor rub and tylenol are doing their work, when a fresh drink of water and a warm clean blankie soothe discomforts and mama’s arms open up to an inviting snuggle, I can feel the relief in their tiny bodies.

And know that I helped.

I know that the time I get to be home with them matters. But on the days when they don’t feel well and need their mama just a little more than usual, then it becomes obvious just how much this work matters. It’s the greatest, hardest, most important work I will ever do.

And all it took was a few runny noses to remind me.

A Letter to My Firstborn – I’m Sorry, Thank You, and I Promise

The oldest and the youngest <3

My dear sweet first baby,

It seems like just yesterday it was just you and me. In less than two years you’ve gained not one but two little sisters. Needless to say, they’ve brought a lot of change with them.

I know it hasn’t been easy for you. At almost seven years old, you’re still on the cusp of the “little” stage yourself. Yet suddenly, your needs seem to have fallen further down the priority list. Just this weekend on our family trip to the park you announced that you needed to use the restroom. But we were in the midst of juggling a baby diaper change and a toddler flinging herself down the playground equipment, and implementing the parenting teamwork strategy that would allow one of us to trek with you to the bathroom took some time. I could tell you were aware of the fact that your sisters’ needs were taking priority over your own. But still, you waited patiently.

As I watched your brave patience with us, my heart swelled and there was so much I wanted to tell you.

First, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry your needs have come in last so often lately. I’m sorry that your little sisters’ needs are often so much louder and more urgent than yours so they seem to take priority more often than not.

I’m sorry that I rely on you so much for help. It seems like I’m asking you for something a lot lately–to keep an eye on the toddler or entertain the baby or hand over the iPad or bring a cup of milk or hold a door. So often you cheerfully help without complaint.

I’m sorry that my expectation for you to be an example to your sisters has led me to be more critical of your behavior. I know that it doesn’t always seem fair, that there are things they get away with that you get in trouble for. I worry that my critical voice is staying with you and making you more critical of yourself and others.

I’m sorry that, as you grow into this beautiful young woman, my parenting role is supposed to shift from managing you to trusting you and I don’t always get it right.

I’m sorry that I don’t tell you these things often enough.

Thank you for being kind and patient and big-hearted anyway.

Thank you for being sweet and understanding with your tired mama.

Thank you for everything you do to help, and for thinking of ways to help even without me asking. Thank you for your sweet notes and drawings that lift my spirits. Thank you for putting on a brave face even when you don’t feel like it.

Three Sisters <3

Most of all, thank you for adoring your baby sisters even though it would be easy to resent them for turning our little world upside down. I hope you see the way they look at you, like you are the most amazing and magical creature they’ve ever seen. Because you are.

I promise that it won’t always be this hard. They will grow and their needs won’t be quite so desperate all the time and a new kind of balance will calm the waves.

I promise that I will do my best to listen when you need something and not put too much on your shoulders just because you are the oldest.

I promise your sisters will become your best lifelong friends and that this tough stage will seem small in comparison to the years of friendship you have ahead of you.

I promise to do my best to see and honor your littleness. I promise not to make you grow up faster than you have to just because you are the oldest. I promise to carve out time for us to cuddle and for you to need me.

And last but not least, I promise you will be better for this. Growing up isn’t easy. Being the oldest isn’t easy. Sharing mom isn’t easy. But I promise that the lessons you are learning in patience and bravery and empathy and kindness and generosity and love and family will make it all worth it.

Always know how proud I am of you, and that the greatest gift in my life is being your mother.

Love,

Mom