Sophomore Parent

If you ever feel like you know something for certain, your child will soon inform you otherwise. It seems to be best to approach every situation with a good helping of humility. learning-grace.com

Many of us have heard the saying: Freshman think they know but they don’t. Sophomores know they don’t know. Juniors don’t know that they know. And seniors, well, seniors know.

I think parents never get past the sophomore level. There are freshmen parents and there are sophomore parents and that’s it. And, frankly the freshmen parents are the ones that give most of us a bad name. If you ever feel like you know something for certain, your child will soon inform you otherwise. It seems to be best to approach every situation with a good helping of humility.

I’m a member of several online parenting communities and I see this dynamic a lot. Earlier this year while potty training S I hit a wall. I was using the same tactics I used with J, but she is a different child and they just weren’t going to work for her. She had firmly given up diapers, but she wanted nothing to do with the potty. I wasn’t really sure what to do, so I turned to one of my online mommy groups for some advice. What I got instead was a pile of mommy shame: I was giving S M&Ms as a reward. (She’s highly motivated by chocolate like her mother.) I was told that was my problem. I was told she was too young, that this could be emotionally damaging. I was told that I clearly wasn’t showing enough enthusiasm to get her excited about the potty. I was told … oh you name it.

The fact is no one knows what’s going on in a two-year-old’s mind—or really in any child’s mind. Parenting is a delicate balance of love and discipline. We have to be a model of authority, setting limits, providing guidance and humility, while also recognizing and honoring the autonomy of the little person before us. If this gets out of balance, we’re sunk.

And so, in my quest to get S out of diapers (well, she had already decided she was done with them) and using the toilet, I went looking for others who might have experienced a similar circumstance to see what worked for them. There’s a great sense of community as well as alot of wisdom and experience in these groups, and the wonder that is social media brought us together. But there’s also a lot of room for these forums to be used for something else: a place to make yourself feel superior, to push for one way of being and doing, to criticize or harass.

And it’s not just on social media, I run into this on the playground, in playgroups, and other places.

It is easier and may even feel more rewarding to be the one with all the answers, or at least seem like it. God knows I have played this role far too often in my life. It’s much more comfortable for me to appear in the know, invulnerable. My tendency is to keep my cards close to my chest. I feel safe that way. However,  it’s not rewarding the long run. It may feel good today, but it’s when you acknowledge your need for other people that community is built and wisdom is gained. It’s in the asking, the searching together that community develops.

Parenting is forcing me out of my safe role because my kids challenge me beyond what I could possibly know each and every day. It does take a village to raise a child and no one is an island, and all those pithy phrases. They are born out of truth. We need each other. One person’s wisdom is never enough.

So, I need to remember that I’m not only a sophomore parent, I’m also a sophomore in life—always aware that there is so much more to learn and a community to learn it from.

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Inside Out

Inside Out

Sometimes when we’re walking, Ken and the kids run ahead and I just stop and watch the three of them, my heart beating wildly. They are pieces of me, my heart, out there in the open.

I feel inside out.

What was once on the inside, protected within me is now out, running free down the sidewalk where God knows what could happen. I didn’t know having a family could do this to me. I didn’t know it was possible to love so much that I actually do feel as if I could burst.

J and S run,  laughing and playing their sibling games. They fall down and bounce right back up. They don’t know I’m constantly scanning the driveways, watching for things that may cause them to trip, or broken glass on the sidewalk. That every time they fall I catch my breath for a second while I figure out if it’s major or minor. They just are filled with joie de vivre. I’m not all worry and woe. They make me run, laugh, and love in ways I never considered. They bring out my best parts. (And sometimes the worst ones, too—but we’re not talking about that, today.)

And this is where I have to pause and remember that we are grounded and we are raising our kids to be the same. We have roots that will tether us when hardship comes. Oh God, I hope they will.

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13, NRSV)

This passage has been my tether in many a storm. We do have a future with a hope. And I love to see it bounding down the street.

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Being Present

There are a lot of times when I should let go and enjoy the moment. I get too caught up on the end result or what’s next, to remember where I am.

After an exciting weekend of breaking in a new scooter, waffles from his favorite restaurant, a kid’s play, the farmer’s market, and a trip to a really cool playground, I asked J what was his favorite thing from the weekend. He replied, “cutting carrots with mommy.”

We had made applesauce carrot muffins together in what I thought was a near disaster (as cooking with toddlers always is). I was impatient and losing my cool as S and J threw flour and fought about who could stir. They took turns putting carrots into the food processor (in the chute, while it was off). J ran away every time I pushed the button to shred them because he didn’t like the sound. That 20 minutes with a half-crazy mommy somehow trumped all the wonderful stuff we did that weekend.

It was humbling, to say the least.

I should have relaxed a bit and enjoyed that moment. There are a lot of times when I should just let go, enjoy, and be present. I get too caught up on the end result or what’s next, to remember where I am. I miss out on the magnificent cherry blossom display overhead because I’m staring at my phone. I’m rushing the kids while they stop to inspect an ant on the way to the grocery store. I’m sitting on the couch, holding hands with my husband after the kids have gone to bed thinking about the dishes in sink. I rush through so many experiences that could have been so much more meaningful because I am too focused on something other than the present moment.

 If I had known that this was going to be the highlight of J’s weekend, I would have found a few more carrots (and maybe some zucchini) to toss into the food processor.

Thinking back, I remember S and J having fun while throwing carrots down the food processor chute, but I didn’t really stop to enjoy it with them. I was concentrating on getting to the end of the muffin making so I could move on to something else. I can’t even remember what it was right now—that’s how important it was.
Maybe we’ll cut some more this afternoon.

Our constant connectivity to people and events that are elsewhere takes us away from what’s right in front of us. I know saying this is nothing new, it’s just something I need to be reminded of on a regular basis. I think I’m going to make “cutting carrots” my new mantra to help me remember to stop thinking about where I’m not and just be where I’m at.

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Child, Please Sleep (in Haiku)

To keep myself sane during those hours upon hours participating in the call-and-response of “Mommy?  . . .  shhhhh.” I composed haikus. www.learning-grace.com

A week or so ago, I decided that it was time for S to learn how to sleep in her own bed. We’ve gone through so many iterations of this. About six months ago we gave up and started bringing her to bed with us when she woke in the night. She seemed to need it, and we figured that it was probably just a phase. Plus, everyone got more sleep that way . . . until we didn’t.

Over time her demands have increased. She started crying to come to bed with us earlier and earlier—well before we’re ready for bed. Then, she started kicking one of us out of the bed (normally Ken), and waking in the middle of the night banging me over the head with her sippy cup, or poking me in the eyes, saying, “No sleep, Mommy!” The only way she’d relax was if I held her next to me with my arm draped across her just so. If I shifted or got up in the night, it was game over.

And now I have a pinched nerve in my neck and my arm goes numb when I bend my elbow.

Ken also misses sleeping in a real bed.

It was time for S to learn how to spend the whole night in her crib. It was a very long parenting week, but around the fourth or fifth night she started sleeping through and we all awoke (albeit 5:45) much happier. To keep myself sane during those hours upon hours participating in the call-and-response of “Mommy? . . . shhhhh.” I composed haikus.

These are probably best appreciated after midnight, and perhaps after a glass of wine . . . or two.

 

7:30 PM
Dear God in heaven,
Let my child sleep through the night,
And grant us world peace.

11:00 PM
Already? Listen kid . . .
I should be off the clock now.
This is Mommy time.

 1:00 AM
Mommy!!! No sleep! Out!
Lay down, I’ll sing songs to you.
Please sleep. No crying.

 2:27 AM
Here we go again.
The songs aren’t working. Now what?
I’ll just lay right here.

 3:45 AM
The siege continues.
Can you just sleep in your crib?
I love you. Please sleep.

 4:14 AM
The neighbors are mad.
They are knocking on the walls.
#apartmentliving

6:00 AM
Places I have slept:
bed, floor, hall, beanbag chair, couch.
Where is the coffee?

 

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Raising Resilient Kids

Being resilient is so important to making it in life; it leads to self-confidence and the ability to learn (and move on) from your mistakes. Unfortunately, it’s also a skill that is mainly honed through experiencing failure and disappointment and learning how to overcome.

I often wonder how I am going to teach my kids to be resilient. It’s a hard thing to do because I just want to protect them, but I can’t stunt their growth. Mama’s got to stand back sometimes and let the littles figure it out for themselves.

Raising Resilient Kids

I feel that J, especially, needs a big reserve in the resiliency department. Life in general just takes more out of him, it is harder when everyday tasks take more work and concentration than they do for everyone else. He gets frustrated easily and he is also a sensitive soul. He’s starting to become aware that he can’t do everything that his peers do. And he keenly feels it when they don’t want to play with him for one reason or another. We try to use these moments to help him figure out how to dust off his pants and move on. But it’s hard. It’s hard on all of us.

We try to tell him “it’s no big deal” when things don’t go his way: when the blocks fall, when he can’t get something just right, when a kid at the playground runs off and he can’t catch up. We try to distract and find something new—something he can do to help him feel success. But, it’s not the same. He knows it. We know it.

So, I’ve done quite a bit of reading about how to help both S and J develop resiliency. And here’s what I’ve learned. You’ve got to let them experience pain and frustrations in life, encourage them to search for their own solutions, and then be right there to help them find their way to put themselves back together and move on. In other words, I’ve got to let my mommy guard down and let the chips fall where they may (within reason) for J and S and then be there to help them pick up the pieces (if they need it).

Here’s a few practical ways we’re working on resiliency at home:

  • Allowing J and S to try to work through their scuffles themselves before intervening.
  • Allowing J to experiment with building new structures or trying other things even if we know it might end in tears of frustration. Allowing those tears to come and then coach him through to recovery. (We don’t do it for him.)
  • Asking J or S for their explanation of the situation and what they think they can do.
  • Helping them find a solution, but encourage them to do as much as possible on their own.
  • Expecting the S and J to wait for us to finish talking or another task (within reason, of course!) before moving on to their request.

Here’s some more really good ideas from Creative with Kids.

I’ve also found these resources to be extremely helpful:

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