I love having friends with kids older than mine. Granted, I have a stepson who is in middle school, but I have not parented him from the beginning which is a little different. I love when a girlfriend with three children older than mine assures me, “I promise – it does get easier.” It does? When might that be? When they’re able to bathe on their own? Get their own breakfasts and get ready for their day by themselves? For about five minutes last week I turned on HGTV and watched a renovation show I used to love. During those few moments I had this vision of myself getting to do some of my own projects someday or watching a 30-minute show in peace…while the sun is still out. Those days have been gone for so long, I can’t even remember them. Continue reading “Life Lessons”
There are certain things promised to us as human beings and also, as Americans. But once you become a parent, I believe you give up many of those rights, whether you realize it at first or not. One being a long, hot shower. Not that any of us should be taking long showers, especially in drought-ridden California…but maybe just a shower a day? Or…a shower every couple days? Is that too much to ask? Apparently so. And the days I do manage to get one usually involve a screaming toddler on the other side of the shower door, so I have to finish in lightning speed. Real relaxing.
Besides the age-old childrearing question of how sleep is going, there is the topic of toddler eating (or perhaps I should say toddler not eating). As a child, I was a prime example of picky eating. So I’m not sure why it surprises me when my kids
sometimes often won’t eat what I serve them. My 4-year-old daughter has never been a great eater, even though I had high hopes because I did Baby Led Weaning with her. She started out strong (as most do) and then around a year stopped eating almost all fruit and most carbs. Kind of the opposite of most kids who prefer white starchy foods. To this day, if I make her a peanut or almond butter sandwich, she will just scrape the protein off and forgo the bread. So as you can imagine, my nearly 2-year-old son has been a breath of fresh air this past year as he’s explored new foods with a vigorous appetite. But since he’s plateaued in weight, he’s slowly but surely becoming more choosy in what he eats, while my 4-year-old is branching out a little more. But, mealtime is still a struggle for both more often than not.
The last thing I want is to cater to them but I do want and need them to eat – and sometimes in a somewhat timely fashion. It seems like such a simple thing to me…it’s food, just put it in your mouth. Chew it, swallow it and go onto the next bite. Why does it need to be complicated?
Just. Eat. Something.
It’s an endless battle I tire of fighting.
When I find myself getting really frustrated, it helps to flash back to a scene at my aunt and uncle’s house when I was roughly 4 years old. I was told to eat everything on my plate or I wouldn’t be able to play with my cousins. I remember being so repulsed by the sight of the food on my plate that I refused to give in to their awful demand of eating it. I sat in that chair bored out of my mind for the entire night, which felt like an eternity to me. But nothing in the world was worth eating that meat, green beans and potato salad staring back up at me. I don’t even remember feeling starved or upset they wouldn’t give me something else. I would have gladly gone without dinner as long as I didn’t have to eat that.
So knowing how I felt as a child, you would think I’d have a little sympathy for my own kids when they refuse to try something new I set in front of them. But I rarely do. Some days I am aggravated beyond belief. Especially if it’s something they ate days before – this happens all the time with my youngest. One day he eats a cup of strawberries. The next day he spits them out with a disgusted look on his face. Same with grapes, pineapple and watermelon – and it even happened the other day with his beloved peanut butter crackers. Loves them one day and hates them the next…it’s such a mystery to me.
When they tried corn at the Thanksgiving meal at my daughter’s preschool celebration last year the teachers said every kid in the class tried it but mine. And that her reasoning was, “My mom doesn’t let me eat corn.” Which is, of course, not true. I don’t really even consider corn a vegetable, but it just shows how picky she is that she wouldn’t even take one bite!
My best friend always reminds me how her son refused to eat anything but a baked potato for dinner every night for 18 long months, and guess what? As a teen, his palate has obviously expanded and he eats like a normal, healthy person now, enjoying salads and a wide array of fruits and veggies.
Everything I have read on this topic says the best thing you can do for your kids is model good, healthy eating. So I try to not get too worked up…I can’t control what they eat. I can only control their choices. And if that means that sometimes they skip a meal because they won’t eat what I serve them for dinner (which usually includes foods I know they like), then they must not be that hungry after all. Or they truly are not feeling it that day and just want to play.
Either way, I am pretty convinced they will turn out just fine.
Sometimes I don’t know how us mothers do it…as I sat rocking my son from 1:30 to 2:30am early Monday morning, I didn’t know how I would keep pushing through. I kept thinking, how in the world will I make it through the day tomorrow? All I knew is in that moment, in that hour, he needed me. When he woke for the day at 5:20, I had the very same thoughts that I had three short hours earlier. Somehow, some way though, I did make it through the day. Just like always. Even if it was one of those typical Mondays – smoke alarm going off from bacon I burned, a short car nap for my son (no transfer to crib) which meant he and I never got the rest we needed. That kind of a day. A friend was coming for dinner, so I had an extra time-consuming meal to make. Yet it all worked out somehow. Again, it always does. I felt overwhelmingly grateful when my head finally hit the pillow at 9pm.
As I sat and rocked him for that hour Sunday night, I couldn’t help but wonder what is in us as mothers that pushes us like nothing else? We think of giving up sometimes, but we don’t. We never do. When we don’t think we have the strength, we somehow find it. When we think all of our patience is gone, we manage to muster up some more when we need it. How us mothers do it, I’ll never know.
I feel like parenting is perhaps the biggest test I’ll face in life. I’m constantly worried I’m failing the test…and failing it miserably. When they don’t eat the way I want them to, I feel like I’m a failure as a parent. When we have a challenging night (or week) of sleep, I wonder what I’m doing wrong. Even when they’ve gotten ear infections, I’ve actually questioned if there was something I could have done to prevent them. It’s absurd. Where does this guilt come from? Many of us have this intense need to strive for perfection, but that will assuredly result in feeling like a failure too.
It’s easy to look at the next parent and think they have it all together or it doesn’t seem like they’re facing the same challenge I am at the moment. But why would they be?
At times we will undoubtedly switch places and we’ll be on a high when they’re on a low…it’s a constant ebb and flow. I sometimes picture parenting as all of us playing on a park playground. We’re all on different equipment, trying it out. While a friend and her child may be swinging happily together this week, my little one may be slipping off the monkey bars into my arms. No one’s ahead of anybody, but we are all on an equal playing field. What happens next is anyone’s guess.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from parenting, it’s that things are constantly changing. I’m not sure why anything surprises me anymore! What I feel matters most is how I handle whatever it is that’s changing at the moment. For me, it means pushing through until I know I can get a break. After a rough week I’ll always need a refresher to press the recharge button in order to take the reins again come Monday. I don’t let myself get to the point of burn-out because that’s just not good for anyone in the house.
And so, I plunge into yet another season of self-care. Recognizing what I need following a draining week can be the best way of taking care of myself. I may not get to refuel for a bit but eventually I know a small break is coming. A pedicure, a cup of tea with a friend, or a workout session alone will typically do the trick. It’s nice to block out the noise, tune into my thoughts, and just “be” for a few hours.
And I have to remind myself to take heart that next week will probably look brighter. These phases – they thankfully don’t last forever.
And hopefully, we’ll be the ones on the swings next week.
I thoroughly enjoyed this piece on modern mothers looking for perfection in all the wrong places. From elaborate birthday parties to home-made, organic, free-range meals on the table, the author hits the nail on the head describing the ways modern moms are missing out by focusing on the near-impossible.
In the past we had nothing to showcase our meals and projects and birthday parties. Now we have Facebook and Instagram to share every detail. And no one is posting pictures of a bad moment or a terrible day. We post the amazing ones – often mountaintop experiences of kids sharing or holding hands or trips with 5-course meals and breathtaking scenery. Perfectly dressed children seemingly well-behaved in the most precarious situations. Every meal is made from scratch – or at least the ones we post pictures of. Now we also have Pinterest which has great ideas, but then there is this desire to go deeper with our kids and prove we are Supermom, which typically leads to feeling like an utter failure. At least for me. I’ve mentioned my Pinterest kid project fails before and opted to go a simpler route instead. These ‘in your face’ posts make you wonder if these mothers ever need a break? They seem like they have it all together, all day, everyday.
As for the motivation behind this desire, I’m not sure if it’s to keep up with the Joneses as the article says? Or is it our wanting to control and be perfect with our kids – pressure we put on ourselves? Maybe it’s societal influences? Regardless of the root, we live in an age of unattainable perfection, it seems, aimed at pleasing our offspring.
What I believe it comes down to – at least for me – is information overload. It seems like the internet and all of this technology complicate life too much. We have to read articles on screen time and handheld devices and if they’re okay for our kids. We research organic vs. GMO and feel guilty if we can’t afford to give them every single thing organic or hormone-free. We overthink discipline constantly – you can find a justification for any and each way of doing it these days. Articles float around email and Facebook that sway you one way and then you google something and see the other side of it and feel conflicted once again. We have to get on online portals for checking kids’ homework and due dates. Our relationship with technology is never-ending.
For me, information overload also means googling my child’s symptoms when they’re not feeling well and let me tell you, this never ends well. I will self-diagnose them and think the worst and worry until the doctor tells me otherwise.
My older friends and relatives will talk about all the modern conveniences we have such as pre-cut and peeled veggies and pre-shredded bagged cheese and the internet at our disposal. While I am in total agreement and am so thankful for these conveniences, I sometimes long for a simpler time where we don’t have constant information surrounding us. We have to drown out the outside noises and focus on family days and screen-free times. Wasn’t it easier in some ways when parents didn’t have access to so much?
It is hard to resist the temptation to throw the perfect Pinterest birthday party or the made-from-scratch meal every single night. For me, doing these things would mean choosing to not sit down and play the legos or to not hold my clingy little one-year-old when he’s feeling like he needs me. I have to be okay with that.
I guess what it comes down to is what we choose to do with the information we have around us. We can use it to drive us to do better or feel competitive. Or we can still be who we are without the bells and whistles and know we are giving our kids the best version of ourselves. We can choose to not log on social media sometimes or to not google the symptoms our child has. Sometimes shutting out the noise is the best choice we can make.
They don’t ask for perfectly displayed meals or a craft to do each day. Our kids will be just fine without all of the extras. I imagine what they want is a whole person – not a burnt-out mother drowning in information with nothing else to give.
Twice last week while at the grocery store with my children, a stranger who had less items to buy approached me to ask if she could cut in front of me in line. Both times I said, “Sure, go ahead.” The first time didn’t bother me and even the second time I wasn’t too phased – but that time, I only had about 8 items in my cart, not a whole week’s worth of groceries. And what was more perplexing is that the woman said, “Thanks, I’m in a big hurry” and then proceeded to slowly count out her exact change to the cashier. Not to mention, right before her request, my son started crying and I picked him up. When it was my turn to check out, the cashier said she was appalled at the woman’s behavior. She said she can’t understand when people ask someone with children to cut in front of them. And she pointed out that I had a fussy baby in my arms, which made it even more rude.
Not gonna lie, a few minutes into the customer’s coin-counting antics, I did think to myself, “No problem, lady – you go first and take your sweet time while I hold my son and do everything one-handed!” I was glad the cashier seemed equally, if not more, annoyed.
I can’t say I was surprised these two customers asked such favors of me, as I’ve noticed a pattern these past few years of post-baby grocery shopping. I’m finding I’m the regular recipient of not-so-nice glares from kidless customers. It’s already a challenge to please two children while I mentally note what I still need and what aisle it’s in. And then to deal with rude strangers on top of it? Not fun.
One time maybe 6 months ago, I had the baby in the Ergo and my toddler in the cart at a grocery store I frequent often. I remember both of my little ones were having an off day. I reached down to grab a 6-pack of soda and one slipped out and fell onto the floor, exploding all over me and a tiny bit went onto another shopper’s ankle. The look of disgust and horror (instead of sympathy) on the woman’s face made me cringe. I mean, it was clearly an accident, and my hands were full. Of course I didn’t expect the woman to help clean it up or anything but I just felt she could have acted a little bit nicer. She would not even look at me so that I could apologize – she turned around and left the aisle as quickly as she could. I leaned down to grab the can to stop it from spraying and then tried to clean it while keeping one hand on my baby who was practically upside down in the carrier. I told a store employee about the mess so no one slipped and fell and he didn’t seem too thrilled either. It made an already challenging morning feel even harder with all the small obstacles adding up.
I hate that a trip to the store feels like I’m a burden to others, when in reality, I’m just doing what everyone else is there to do: buy food to feed my family. I just happen to have my children in tow. Sorry, they’re not old enough to be in school and I’m not going to get a sitter every time I need to run an errand. I’m not sure what to think…are people just rushed? Self-centered? Simply focused on their own agendas? Are their kids grown and they’ve forgotten what it’s like?
Whatever the reason, it has made me more mindful since becoming a mother to hold doors for parents with strollers and pick up the item a toddler throws from a shopping cart for the baby-wearing mother. Sadly, I know I wasn’t perfect at going out of my way to help out before I had kids. But, as this blogger so eloquently put it, it’s actually worse when the parent of grown children behaves in this way. I couldn’t agree more. The entire blog post is perfection, but here’s that excerpt:
Fine. Ignorant non-parents, who don’t know what they’re talking about, imposing ridiculous standards on actual parents because it makes them feel superior. I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it. As bad as you people are, you’re not nearly as horrible as the second type: actual parents with grown children who judge other parents, as if they haven’t been in the exact same situation many times. I had an older guy complain to me recently about babies that cry during church. He said: “Back when our children were babies, you didn’t have this problem.” Interesting. Apparently babies didn’t cry in the 50’s. The whole “crying baby” thing is a new fad, it would seem. These folks who had kids a long time ago seem to have a rather selective memory when it comes to their own days of parenting young kids.
Read more at http://themattwalshblog.com/2013/09/15/dear-parents-you-need-to-control-your-kids-sincerely-non-parents/#jzUzVWSzQ0sML0Mx.99
Non-parent, parent with grown children, parent with children present, it doesn’t matter. We are all doing what we can. Please, please know that I am not trying to bother you or ruin your shopping experience by just ‘being.’ I’m just trying to get through my list too. I would appreciate your patience at times and please excuse me if I move a little slow through the aisles. And if we make eye contact, you could actually smile back at me. That may be the bright spot of my morning.
One day last week I found myself needing a break in a bad way. When it was noon and I was irritable and antsy and had no idea what to do with my kiddos the rest of the day, I decided I was in need of some time for myself. Time to process these crazy past few weeks, time for solitude, time for breathing, time for healing. So I booked my sitter and spent two lovely hours on the beach alone where I did not talk to one person. It was glorious. And it was just what I needed.
I wrote, I cried, I listened to music. I prayed. I asked for words. I heard. Humbled by God’s beautiful creation, there really could not be a more calming spot for me than the beach to enjoy my afternoon of silence. There is something about the ebb and flow of the waves crashing and the stillness that occurs in between.
All week I knew I was in some need of some self-care, but it was hard for me to make it happen. It is interesting because I have been doing a lot of dreamwork lately, and came across a synopsis that said if you’re dreaming you are neglecting an animal or a baby in your care, you are neglecting yourself in real life. I couldn’t believe it – for years, and I mean years, I had dreams just like this. I don’t know why I never looked it up, but how crazy is it that self-care has turned into my passion now that I’m a mother. I wish I had analyzed the meaning of my dreams at the time, but I’m grateful I now know the underlying message!
I find it can be so challenging to focus on our own needs when we are constantly meeting the demands of our children. I feel so worn down some days that the last thing I have energy for is time for me. But I’ve found that even little things I can do for myself like grabbing Starbucks on a day that drags on, squeezing in a 20-minute workout or reading a few pages of a book can buy me some time until I have a few hours to solely devote to me. Just being mindful of making myself a priority, even if in a small way, can help feed my soul and rejuvenate me a bit.
As I read this mother’s question on a blog I follow, I couldn’t help but feel a renewed sense of why I started this website in the first place: so that others would also spend time connecting and caring for themselves in ways that will make them the best mothers, wives and women they can be. It reminded me to re-read my Self-Care 101 post to refresh myself, too, on how I can slow down and honor my body in this busy season of life.
I also love this friend’s blog on the very same thing, and perhaps turning this new season into a pattern of no’s instead of one of perpetual yes’s. As I’ve written before, I feel that Fall often gives us that permission to settle in a bit earlier, and stay in a little more. I hope this season of life brings all of us intentional quiet moments of reflection. May we establish a new, healthy rhythm of listening to ourselves regularly.
Happy Fall, friends.
Another round of those moments I assumed would be different once I had children….
I recently saw this post and completely related to it – when did having kids get dropped off to birthday parties become a thing of the past? Is this a generational thing? When I made a list last year to have a party for my daughter’s 3rd birthday, the total was around 75 people and that did not include anyone under the age of 2. There is no way to have all of those people in our house and where would they all park?
In the end, I had her pick 3 little girl friends to invite and I provided food, cupcakes, goody bags (and wine for the moms, who happened to be my friends). The girls went outside, played dress-up together, colored and ate. It was the perfect little party and in no way overwhelming for my child. When I read the above-mentioned article, I was in complete agreement. I am so down with the drop-off party! I hope people start doing it as my daughter gets older. Birthday parties seem to be every single weekend…does anyone else feel they’re a bit overrated??
I’ve touched on this before, but I never realized the incessant talking – and more specifically, the talking in circles – that would take place with toddlers. For example, this conversation happened on Saturday with my 3-year-old:
Her: “Mom, why am I taking a break from Sunday school?”
Me: “You’re not. You went the past 3 weekends.”
Her: “No, it was the past 5 weekends.” (5 is her go-to number)
Me: “Oh, ok.”
Her: “Well, can I take a break from Sunday school?”
Me: “I guess, if you want to.”
Her: “No, I really don’t want to take a break.”
Well, that really solved a lot. Sometimes I have no idea where anything is going in conversations with her…these seem to happen quite a bit lately! They leave me very, very puzzled.
The idea that two of your own littles ones close in age will play (or play well) together. When, if ever, does this happen? I know mine are still pretty small, but I am constantly intervening. It’s almost worse than if it was just one of them playing independently. Inevitably, one will hurt the other on accident (or on purpose, let’s be honest) and I must stop what I’m doing for the hundredth time. I guess I thought they would be happy to have each other. There are glimpses of this at times, so I’ll keep hoping it gets better in the future.
Back to the sleep issue (mentioned in my other Mom Misconceptions post) – my baby, bless him, has been sleeping like a dream for 5 straight months now. No wake-ups that whole stretch except one, ironically, on Saturday night (darn eye teeth, I think). My nearly 4-year-old who has dropped her nap will now crash out before 7, but going to sleep that early means a wake-up may possibly happen in the night. To inform me she has to potty (just do it – no need to wake me!) or like the other night, to say, “Aubrey told me today that I can’t do a cartwheel. But I can.” Is she really wanting to discuss gymnastics and friends at midnight? When do they ever continuously sleep – or when is it that us parents get to sleep, I should say. I hear we will worry when they’re teens and out at night, so really, I guess once you’re a parent, sleep is for the birds.
I never knew driving would feel so tumultuous at times. Tantrums and meltdowns in the car are no fun. I feel like I may lose my mind. When I’m trying to navigate to a new place, that makes it even worse. I’m attempting to hear Siri, but the cries or screams make it near-impossible. Luckily, these episodes don’t happen too often, but when they do – Lord have mercy on us all. Sometimes, all you can do is laugh and that is what I often find myself doing!
My mantra lately:
I need to practice what I preach this week! It’s been long days lately – I think summertime messes with routines a bit. Plus more daylight means longer days I guess? Oh, and it doesn’t help my 3-year-old is fighting the nap lately – nooo! The dreaded dropping of the nap!! I have wondered and worried when that would come to fruition.
I went to Michael’s over the weekend with my family to get some supplies for a few fun projects around the house. I’ve been feeling the itch to get a few things hung and some projects accomplished. I think that will help me to get my creative juices flowing. I plan to involve my daughter for one of them, which will be a fun thing to do together.
Hope everyone has a great Monday!
MISCONCEPTIONS I HAD BEFORE KIDS
I read this a few months ago, and it had me laughing so hard! I sent it to my expectant brother and sister-in-law, and my brother responded he was having heart palpitations after reading it. It is, of course, an exaggeration but pretty funny nonetheless and much of it does ring true. Since then, I’ve been thinking of my own misconceptions I had about parenthood. I honestly had no idea it would be so difficult but I also thought I knew so much when I clearly didn’t!
- Snotty kids – why can’t their mother just wipe.that.nose. Before children, I looked at kids’ snotty noses and thought, “Really – can’t you just clean that? How hard can it be?” Now, I’m on the other side of it. When mine have a cold, I think, ‘for those noses to be perfectly clean at all times, it would require me wiping it every five seconds.’ It would literally be all I did all day long! Sorry, moms, for judging you before I knew better.
- You stay out late one night – no big deal, right? Why would you work around your child’s schedule instead of your own? Oh – because there is only hell to pay if you don’t. All day long the next day. They don’t just ‘sleep in’ because you stayed out late. In fact, they often wake super early on those days! And they’re generally not happy campers following nights like that. So, we stay in a lot.
- Hard for moms to find time for a shower? No way would a day go by where I would miss one. Ha! I had absolutely no idea of the constant demands kids place on a mother. I’ve had many a shower-less day. Too many to count actually.
- I always felt like little kids were in my way. Now I’m on the other side – probably being a nuisance to everyone else. Telling them, “Don’t touch that!” and apologizing to random people in the grocery store. I wish I had been more understanding to those mothers before I had my own children. It requires so much multi-tasking to keep them happy and manage your list while shopping for what you need.
- Babies and sleep – can’t be that bad, right? There’s the phrase “sleep like a baby” – but then I heard later that it should really be “sleep like a husband” which totally makes more sense. Enough said on this one.
- On the sleep subject, I always envisioned rising before my little ones, brewing some coffee, maybe reading a bit or making some breakfast for us all. Nope. They’re my daily alarm clock.
- There would be payback someday for all I did as a child to my parents. I was a pretty well-behaved kid (or so I’ve been told) but I was quite a chatterbox. And so, numbers 12 and 13 on the above-mentioned blog certainly ring true for me these days! Wow, can my daughter talk!
- I had no idea the days would be incredibly long as a stay-at-home mom. I find myself thinking of things to do to pass the time. Yet the days are long and the months are short, as the saying goes. I really can’t believe how quickly they’re growing.
Clearly, I’m still learning in each new stage we enter – and I’m sure many more surprises are coming my way!