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!

 

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.

Mom, Please Let Me Fail

We have all heard it before, “in order to succeed one must first learn to fail.”  As a parent this means we have to let our children fail before they can succeed.  I know, it is so difficult to watch your child fail.  And it all begins so very early.

As our babies learn to walk it is hard to sit back and watch when you know they are going to fall.  But if we were to swoop them up every time they wobbled, how would they ever learn to walk?

My older kids seem to rarely take my advice, and on the occasion they do I can tell they are not always completely convinced I have any clue what I am talking about.   I have learned to be ok with this.  When they gain wisdom through their own mistakes they truly learn – they succeed.  Through their own experience this newfound knowledge is concrete, definable and able to be reconstructed and amended – they own it.

Forbes Magazine recently published an article, “7 Crippling Parenting Behaviors That Keep Children From Growing Into Leaders.”  Guess what number 1 on this list was – “We don’t let our children experience risk.”

So do your kids a favor, let them fail.

 

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…

Intentional Parenting

I have been very busy lately.  Five kids, a new school year, house guests, a birthday, five committees and two upcoming fundraisers has made the past two weeks a bit of a blur.

In the midst of this blur we have obviously managed to accomplish our everyday goals.  Nobody has been late to school, chores have been completed, agendas have been prepared and dinner has been served.

Although I must admit it was ever so helpful to have my in-laws in town to pick up any loose ends – or children on the days I was scheduled to be in more than one place at a time!

With all of these commitments I sometimes find myself on autopilot.  This makes me question how intentional of a parent I really am.  Am I parenting with purpose, or by default?  Are all of our systems in place so that they are accomplished in the midst of the blur?  Are my children being molded with goals in mind or are they on a path of happenstance?

The Commander and I joke that running a family is really the same as running a business.  Really though this isn’t a joke.

A business makes a plan, sets goals and works toward those goals.  Why not do this with your family?

This week I am going to update our Family Plan.  But most importantly, the Family Plan is going to be written, not just ideas thrown out and discussed.  I want to create an actual document that can be revisited, revised and grow along with our own family’s needs and desires.

I know this sounds daunting.  But, just start.  Include your children.  Make this your mealtime topic for the next few nights.  The beauty of this project is that a Family Plan, just like a business plan, will always be changing.  You can always revise or make an addendum – it is YOUR family’s plan.

If you need some assistance, begin with questions like this:

  • What values are important to our family?
  • What are our family goals?
  • Where or how do we see our family in 5 or 10 years?
  • What are our traditions?
  • What rituals do we have?
  • What activities are important to our family?
  • What rules do/should we have?

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

Back To School – Making Memories, Traditions and Trinkets

Remember the book All I Really Ever Needed To Know I Learned In Kindergarten?  I think I should write a modern version, All I Really Ever Needed To Know I Found On Pinterest!

Seriously though, skimming through Pinterest I have found some really great ideas.  For example these great links to various back to school ideas…

I love the idea of lunch box notes.  I once met a mother who happened to also be a great artist.  Every morning she would sketch a design, scene, note or whatever on a square yellow post it note and stick it in her children’s lunch.  I know this because when I opened the pantry door each note was taped to the back side.  Her son saved each note.

The great part is you do not have to be an artist at all – or have little squares of paper.  I like to write notes on napkins.  To show your love it doesn’t have to be fancy.  Or, you could use this template and keep a stash of different notes in your drawer to toss in as you make lunch.

Back to School - Free Printable Lunch Notes by PaperCrave LivingLocurto.com

These Pocket Hearts are another super sweet idea.  I know my girls would love to keep one of these in their pockets at school.  Or you could slip this in your little one’s lunchbox or backpack to find during the day.  Granted one might need to be slightly crafty to make these, you might choose something similar but of another material.  A Shrinky Dink (like) charm shaped heart that read “Love Mom” could be another option.

Pocket-Hearts-by-Curly-Bird

How about a Back To School Interview?  These are some great questions I have found.  This is always a good time to go back to later in life.  It is going to be great fun to share my daughter’s plans one day.  At age 5 her plan was to live on a ranch, be a veterinarian, ride her horse to work and have five children who will stay home with their daddy.  I just love it!

back to school yearly interview tradition with questions

1st Day of School Traditions can be great memories and even help ease the transition into a new class.  Children thrive on knowing what to expect and consistency.  While there will be much change and a lot to learn on the first day back to school, having a few traditions to rely on might help relieve some of the anxiety associated with change.

3 fun first day of school traditions

And when they come home from school be sure to talk about their first day.  While a day in kindergarten may seem like a vacation to you, your 6 year old has just made a huge accomplishment.  Ask questions to acknowledge your interest in their success.  This will be a big confidence booster for the many days to come.  Check out these Questions To Ask After the First Day of School.  And if you have one of those children not really interested in conversation use the car ride home to your advantage, they will be in their seatbelts – a captive audience!

Talk About School with Your Kids: Questions to Ask

Ten Days of Art, Part 4 – Gratitude

As a child I recall my mother telling me that if I was not willing to take the time to write a thank you note for a gift that somebody took the time to choose for me, I might never receive another gift from that person again.   I know, harsh, huh?

When was the last time you received a Thank You note – a written note?  After our most recent birthday celebration and many days of reading “write thank you notes” on my to do list I have realized these little hand written notes are one of the things we have made ourselves “too busy” for.  And even worse, we feel as if this can be excused because we are so “busy” with so many other things.

As a society we have exhausted our tasks with all things instant.  We scan payments from our phones, receive appointment confirmations via text and invitations via email because our culture has decided one can “save time” if we don’t have to pull out our wallet, make a phone call or post something in the mail.

So today I have decided we will slow down and take the time for gratitude.  Not only are we writing our thank you notes, we decorated them too.  Each note is unique and lovingly made just for the addressee.

IMG_6236  IMG_6237  IMG_6238

To make cards like these we used white cardstock, red acrylic paint and the base of a stalk of celery.  Other vegetables like romaine lettuce or okra would work well too.  Use your imagination and have fun.

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