It’s just a Phase

My first baby is now 17.  When he used to sit behind me in his car seat kicking the back of my own seat I used to get very irritated, but he made up for that as we sang songs together waiting in traffic, or planned his future as a firefighter.  The thought of a teenager was so far away.  I had no clue.

And then as middle school came and went I remember dreading the thought of him actually driving one day.  But now he is driving and it is awesome!

Although, I was reminded by a friend that when your teen starts to drive you lose that array of conversations able to be had while driving from one place to the next.  This is true.  I value that time.

But it also means potential for increased responsibility, freedom, growth, experiences, and gained confidence.

As I teeter back and forth from my driving, 6 foot, 17 year old who just arrived home from school unassisted, to my 3 year old who insists I help him pull up his underwear, yet not dare flush the toilet for him, I am reminded that everything about parenting is just a phase.

3 Steps to be a better parent by Monday

We all parent in different ways, yet we all want to be a “better” parent.  Fortunately there is always room for improvement – for everyone.

I find it is so easy to be distracted and consumed in this high-speed, internet driven, mobile World in which we live.  Sometimes it is important to just take a deep breath, step back and realize what really is most important.

This weekend try these tips to be a better parent:

1.  Listen.  Have you ever talked to a child about something really important?  Something you really wanted them to understand?  Remember how you leaned down low so that you could be on their level and insisted they look you in the eyes so that there were no distractions?

Next time your little one wants to talk to you, try this same thing.  Stand or sit in a place where you can really connect, get down to their level.  Look them in the eyes and stop everything else you are doing.  Allow for no distractions.  Yes, that means put down your cell phone.

After all, this is someone who is really important.  Someone you really want to understand.  And someone you want to know feels understood.

2.  Encourage.  It is easy to point out mistakes and poor choices of behavior.  Make a point to acknowledge the good things.  Tell your little one you are proud of them for something they have accomplished, acknowledge how hard they worked on achieving a certain goal, recognize their efforts in a time when you see that they did their best, even if unsuccessful.

When our children know we see their choices and behavior this not only builds them up when we recognize, it encourages appropriate actions and reactions in the future.

3.  Give hugs.  Never forget to hug your child.  Now, I know of a certain 8 year old who is way too cool to get a hug from his mom, but even he likes a pat on the back or high five ever so often.  Maybe just sit close to, or be more intentional about tucking them in.  Don’t be hands off, no matter what the age.  Definitely be aware of their comfort level with affection as they get older, but never stop giving hugs.

These ideas are pretty basic, but things so easily taken for granted and overlooked.  Give it a try this weekend!

 

Just Let Them Play

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For us today is Opening Day for Little League Baseball.  While I hope Little League is an exciting experience that my child looks forward to each Spring, and looks back on over the Summer as an achievement and something to be proud of, I enter the season with much hesitation and concern.

Fortunately, the kids don’t always see what goes on beyond the dugout – at least not for the first few years.

Why must we (the parents of these children) apply so much pressure?  Why do so many coaches and parents act like they are paving their child’s path to Major League Baseball?

Did you know that even if your child continues beyond Little League to play on a High School team only 11.2% of those players will continue to play baseball in college (Scholarshipstats.com)?  And then if your Little Leaguer continues to MLB he will be 1 of the 10.5% of college players to do so.

Odds are not in your favor to be a professional athlete.

So how about we just let them play?  Perhaps in doing so our children will learn a little about character, courage and loyalty, and grow to be superior citizens rather than superior athletes.  After all, this is the Mission of the Little League Baseball.

Encourage your child to always do their best.  That is the only thing that matters.  And after the game praise your child equally whether the game was a win or loss because in the end those statistics are not really important.

But I want a cookie…

May I have a cookie?

No, not now.

But, I want a cookie.

Not now, we will eat dinner soon.

I want a cookie.

Not now, later.

But I want a cookie…

Have you had this conversation before?  If you have a toddler I am sure you have.

Well, bad news is there is no convincing your toddler to wait until after dinner for that cookie (or whatever else it is they are transfixed upon at that moment).

Good news is that your toddler is not really an evil little thing that knows if they just ask one more time you will be broken and give in.  Often that is the way it works out, but really, that was not a plan schemed by your 3 year old.

The fact is that a toddler really cannot make the connection or understanding that he cannot have the cookie now but perhaps sometime in the future.  He also cannot move beyond the desire for that cookie.

I attended a VERY interesting discussion this week on children and brain development.  At birth until about 2 years old a baby’s brain is still quite undeveloped.  All of the parts are there, but there is still much room for growth.  Until the age of about 2 years a baby’s right and left hemisphere is only partially connected to one another, and throughout infancy a child primarily functions according to the right side of the brain, which is known to drive social, cognitive functions, like feelings, touch, play and emotions.  After about age 2, a child’s brain begins to form a fibrous connection between the right and left hemispheres, although this connection is not fully complete until sometime after age 4-5.  Think of this connective fiber as a system of power lines used to connect functions between the Right, social, feeling, emotional side of the brain and the Left, analytical, numerical, thinking side of the brain.  Until this system of connective fibers is complete a child’s response simply cannot be formed using both his feeling and thinking functions, yet is based mostly on purely a need created by emotions.

So… you have two options next time you hear, “May I have a cookie?”

First, you could wait about a year for the brain to grow and you receive an agreeable response.

Or, you can attempt to distract your toddler from this topic and move on to something else.  Good luck!

If you would like to read more about infant brain development check out the book, Bright From the Start by Jill Stam.

Family Night, a means for developing your family culture

Each family has its own Family Culture.  As a parent it is up to us to help develop this culture, because whether it is intentional or not, our choices and actions associated with our family will create the culture that ultimately molds our lives.

In our family, the Commander and I are very intentional (although we do have our unintentional moments) to create a family culture which will nourish and strengthen our children in ways we believe important.  One way we do this is through Family Night.

For us, Family Night is decided on a rotation.  Each week one of the five kids will be the one in charge.  We aim for Fridays because it is an evening that most often works for us.  Whoever’s turn it is for the week has the opportunity to decide on the dinner and an activity.  For the most part the options are limitless.  Meals are usually predictable kid favorites and afterward we  do something together which always varies.

Ironically though, family nights are not always as smooth and happy as they seem.  Honestly, there was a time I even wondered, “why bother?”.  Often there is someone who hates the dinner choice, doesn’t like the movie or stomps off because he didn’t win the game.

About this same time I was attending a parenting seminar.  It was a video course where teens were interviewed regarding their family experiences.  Overall, of the teens who regularly spent time of some sort with their families, they expressed that even though not each event went smoothly, or was their favorite, the time spent together was absolutely worth it and because of the consistency of this time together they felt much closer and more loved by their parents.

With this in mind I now see that even though not every family night is a complete success, it is still worthwhile.  Some Fridays we may laugh and play games until midnight, and other Fridays we may have tears and someone that chooses to go to bed early.  But this is normal.  It is life.  Not everything is going to go your way and you have to choose how to deal with it.  Who better to learn this lesson with than your own family?

 

I now know why I sometimes feel like a crazy person

Last week I was part of a discussion with other mothers of preschoolers.  The group was asked, “What do you enjoy most in this season of your life, and what prevents you from enjoying this thing you love best?”

After thinking about this for a moment I realized it is no wonder I feel like I am going crazy on most days.

I have two things that really make me happy.  Well, really there are several things that make me happy, but these first two things are pretty elemental in allowing anything else to happen.

One of the first things I could think of that really makes me happy is organization  and cleanliness -although you would never guess this about me based on the condition of my house on most days.  The second thing I really enjoy is being with my kids and allowing them to be kids.

Awesome.

But then I pondered the remainder of the question.  This is where I realized there is an absolutely rational reason for my moments of craziness.

The very two things I enjoy are also the same two things which prevent me from enjoying them.

Let me explain, I love a clean house, everything in its place, fresh sheets, spotless windows, clothes folded neatly on so on.  The main reason my house is not this way is, well – five kids.  But, I also love allowing the kids to have fun, play and make a mess.  I enjoy allowing them to play uninhibited.  Often this means I will find paint on the walls, mud on the floor or something strange in the freezer.  But all the while they are exploring, learning and growing in ways they could never otherwise be taught.  This I believe is very important.

So now I know, yes I have a rational reason for my feelings of craziness induced by the conundrum I have created.  Fortunately, this is only a “season” of my life and there will be another time in the future when I am not questioning my sanity – at least not for the same reasons.

 

 

 

Normal Everyday Crazy

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This is what MC chose to wear on our walk to school this afternoon to pick up her brother and sister.

I really didn’t think too much of it until several people commented on her “ensemble”.  Then I thought, “oh, well yes, I suppose that is kind of crazy.”  But I am ok with kind of crazy.

Funny thing though, there was a time I would have never considered letting my child step foot outside the door with even a shirt tail untucked or hair out of place.

Now look at me.  My children have definitely changed me.  Some things that would have turned me inside out in the past are now just a part of our normal everday kind of crazy days.  And I am ok with that.

Honestly, I wish I would have learned to be ok with this much sooner.  It wasn’t until child number 3 that I began to embrace the craziness and give my children grace for their (in my opinion) outlandish ideas.

I suppose you get to a point where you realize you are not really the one in control.  Or at least I realized that it wasn’t really necessary for me to be in control ALL of the time.

I like to think of my system now as controlled chaos.  I have control of the situation, but yes, to a bystander it will often look like chaos.

No way in a million years would I have ever been able to convince my single child self of this, but if I could have figured this out sooner many of my days would have much more simple.

My children have taught me that my idea of perfect order is not always necessary.  They have also taught me that when I think order is necessary and it just doesn’t happen, that is ok too.  Because really, most days these things just don’t matter, and a little bit of everyday crazy is absolutely ok.

And yes, just in case you were wondering she also rode the pink scooter with flashing wheels…

Eye Opening

(Photographer unknown)

Huh?  French Kiss?  That is what I secretly remember thinking the first time I heard the word.  I recall being in elementary school, on the playground, underneath one of those half-dome monkey bar things that all of the playgrounds used to have, when I first heard of a French Kiss.  I had absolutely no idea what those kids were talking about.  But they all seemed to know so there was no way I was going to ask and let it be known that I was clueless.

It was most likely a few years later before I used all of the many context clues I had gathered to really know what a French Kiss was.  There was not really much on television I watched that would explain this, I would never have asked my parents, my brother was younger than I was so he naturally didn’t know anything (at least that is what I thought), so I just had to wait and piece it all together.  At some point I do recall the stunning realization that some of these words I had been stumped by could be found in the dictionary.  I suppose that was pretty helpful.

Have you considered how this process will work for your children?

Until recently I just expected my children’s experience with sex and the like to be similar to mine.

Today I read a post by a thirty-three year old, daughter of a Southern Baptist Preacher and recovering addict, entitled “Three Things You Don’t Know About Your Children and Sex.”  Wow, huge eye opener!

This is what made the most impact on me: Miller states, “Google is the next Sex-Ed.”

Just like we use Google to search for anything else, children are using Google to search for these phrases, like “French Kiss.”  Why not?  Google won’t laugh, criticize or condemn.  This is very logical.

Although the thought of the Pandora’s Box this innocent search might reveal is sickening to say the least.

My desire to maintain my children’s innocence and joy for as long as possible is a constant concern.  Too often it seems our children are approached by evil.  It is reassuring for me to remind myself evil can only be defined by what it is not – the good in the World.  So in order for evil to exist there must also be the good.  We just have to look for it.

This is another good reminder.  Talk to your children.  Talk to them often.  And let them know they can ask you anything – tell them this.  It is my hope that my children will be comfortable asking me, not Google when they really want to know something.

Embrace the Interruptions

Jeff Goins, author of The In-Between, has created a series of challenges to help us focus and give motivation to slow down.  Pretty ironic that we need to be motivated to slow down, don’t you think?

Today’s idea is to let go and embrace interruptions.  The challenge is to:

  • Decide what you will do and who you will be WHEN you get interrupted. You don’t have to let people steal your time, but choose your response before it happens.
  • Block out time to spend with a person who usually interrupts you. Call her just to chat; if local, ask her to lunch.
  • When an interruption occurs, welcome it. Look for what you can learn from the experience, and don’t get annoyed. Instead, embrace this as a chance to grow.

As a mother of five I am interrupted constantly.  These were my interruptions I can recall from today:

  1.  C had a bloody nose in the back seat of the car while on our way to a playdate.
  2. The Little Prince insisted to play the monkey song on my iphone over and over again handing me the phone each time he closed the app as I tried to work.
  3. Diaper explosion on the way out the door.
  4. Driving down the road I realized MC was not wearing a seatbelt.
  5. The gardener knocks on the door to discuss a water leak.
  6. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I know these are necessary but when it requires preparing, making food for and cleaning up after five people it becomes an interruption.
  7. Quarrels.
  8. How do you spell…?

I know it can be frustrating when you are really focused and just about to finish a project and then you are interrupted by that little voice saying, “I’m hungry” or “How do you spell investigate?”.

I must admit it took me a while, probably about 3 children, but finally I have learned something from all of the interruptions.   At the end of the day it doesn’t always really matter if you completed every project you had planned.

I like to look at life like laundry.  If you finish all of the laundry today there will once again be more laundry tomorrow.  The pile of dirty laundry will always be there.  But all of the little moments between the wash loads will not.

Instead of having all of my laundry clean, folded and put away, I have chosen to stop what I am doing to listen in order to show I have interest in my children’s interests so that they will grow confident and continue to dream big.  I have chosen to stop what I am doing to read Pinkalicious (again) so that they know they are in fact my priority.  And I will stop what I am doing to apply bandaids (even when there is no blood in site) so that they know their concerns are real and that I will always be here to take care of them.

So especially today I am going to choose to embrace all of the little moments between the “loads of laundry” in life.  Because it is all of these little moments that are molding and forming my children creating the foundation for the adult they will too soon be.

“We need to learn to fall in love with the whole process of life, not just a particular event.” – Jeff Goins

What’s Your Story?

I find birth stories quite amazing, but not for the reason you would think.  Sure, I am amazed of the new life and miracle that has happened.  But what I find most amazing is how vastly different one person’s story can be from another.  I guess that is part of what makes us all so unique, right?

Today I read about the birth of two very different babies.  First, of course, the Royal Baby and then that of a baby named, Hugo.

This will just about sum it all up.  Kate’s delivery was described as “a very emotional experience.”  Baby Hugo’s mother, Laurentine was said to be “in a hypnotic trance, “during most of the delivery.

I must say I am very intrigued by the natural birthing process.  This is the crunchy side of me!  I too must tell you I have delivered all five of my children in a hospital, four of those births via C-section.

With that said, I think what is most important here is to recognize we are all different.  We have different needs, desires and comfort levels which drive our decisions.  Ultimately, we are all mothers doing our best to make the best decisions for our most precious gifts.

So whatever your decision, let’s support each other by recognizing that while our decisions may be absolutely opposite of one another, we ultimately have the same goal – to be the best mother we can be to our children.

Prince William