Tag

challenges

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.

 

 

Why it’s so hard to be an open-ended parent 

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I saw this today and thought, “Yes! Open-ended parenting!”

And then the rest of today happened.

My four year old is in one of those phases. A hard phase. A defiant phase. A loud, rowdy, non-stop phase. It feels like everything I tell her to do goes in one ear and out the other. It feels like a constant battle for control.

Which I hate.

I posted today on facebook some of her creative defiance and had the usual amused responses. But I also had someone share their opinion suggesting that I was taking for granted what good qualities she was displaying in her defiance (creativity, innovation, perseverance, etc) and that “the work of children was to play” anyway.

I’ll admit, I got a little offended. My impulse was to get defensive, tell him he was preaching to the choir and that I knew all of that stuff.

But instead I started to wonder if I was really “walking the talk”. Am I being too hard on her? Sometimes it feels like all i do is nag her. Should I be appreciating her energy rather than being exhausted trying to channel it? Am I wasting all my energy trying to control her?

Except I always come back to the question: does letting her be completely who she is at four years old mean letting her run wild and choose what she wants to listen to and what she doesn’t? I can’t believe that’s true. Isn’t there something to be said for teaching her to be respectful, to be honest, to be kind and responsible and productive? It could even be argued that helping her to develop those traits will help her to fully embrace and take full advantage of her own authentic path in life. In some ways, those are skills that will help her be authentic down the road. I think there’s a difference between controlling who she is and controlling how she is. 

Also, to be blunt? I can’t see how letting her act like an asshole benefits her.

We shouldn’t try to mold our children into what we think society wants. But we also shouldn’t pretend like they don’t have to live their lives in that society. It is already hard enough to be an individual in the crowd, we don’t need to intentionally make it harder by giving the group more reasons to “banish” or shame the individual. Pretending that human beings aren’t social animals who long to be part of a tribe doesn’t make it true.

We can give them the skills like respect and honesty and kindness to help them fit more smoothly into a group and still give them the courage and character to stand out and be authentic. We can teach them socially acceptable behavior so that when they choose to deviate from that, it is by intentional choice.

I had the privilege of hanging out with one of the people in my life that I greatly admire and don’t get to see very often this week. We were talking about education and assessment and she said something about doing a little of both opinions. “Some of the stuff is great and we definitely need to be doing it, but we also have to do this other stuff. You can’t firmly plant yourself on one side or the other, we need things from both sides.”

And I thought that was so simple it felt profound and wise. It may seem stoic to plant yourself firmly in one corner, in opposition to any other way, but the truth is, we almost always need more than one way. We definitely need to teach children to challenge authority, be innovative thinkers, 21st century citizens. But we also need to teach them to be polite, respectful, kind, generous human beings. They can challenge authority, but not everything has to be a battle. And they can challenge authority and norms and still be respectful about it.

Children need to understand the importance of finding their true path and following it like their hair is on fire. Finding your authentic self may be the most important thing you will ever do. But we are human. Sometimes we just need our tribe. Sometimes, the most important benefit of being authentic is finding your true tribe. Once you find it, it’s important to be able to adapt through awareness of social norms and cues. Like listening, and realizing that it isn’t always about you.

So that’s what I’m trying to do. Teach her that she can’t always disrupt class because sometimes going to battle with your teacher doesn’t help you, and sometimes other kids in the class don’t want to be disrupted and they deserve respect too. And I’m trying to do that without squishing her fire.

It’s hard. Obviously.

But it’s worth it.

You Know Those Days?

You know those days where you it’s cold and you’re exhausted but you still pull yourself out to get groceries and then you forget your grocery list but you rally and you even muster the generosity to let the kid push her own little kiddie cart and then you get two aisles in and she has to pee and has touched all the fruit in the produce section and run into your ankles three times and you realized you forgot almost everything you needed in the aisles you already went through and somehow she managed to sneak a bunch of gatorade into her cart so you just pick out the biggest tub of cookie dough you can find and go check out? Yep… I know those days.