Month

April 2017

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.