Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Help a Brother Out

We have a rule in our house.  No bothering parents until 7:00 AM.  My boys refer to this time as "seven zero zero" and watch the digital clocks closely to see when they can come into our room to ask for something.  It's usually food (Can you open this?), TV (Can you turn on Mickey Mouse?) or to tattle on the other for doing something awful.  But until seven zero zero, they are on their own.

"I hungry!" I heard my two year old exclaim to his brother around 6:45.  I was already up with the baby but I was hoping that I could buy myself another 15 minutes by staying very quiet.  "Me tell Mama!" he yelled.  "NO DREW!" my oldest answered in an exaggerated whisper.  "It's not seven zero zero!  What do you want to eat?" he asked.  "Oatmeal," my toddler answered hopefully.  Maybe, just maybe, his brother could help fend off his starvation.  I listened intently hoping that the stove or microwave did not get involved in this endeavor.  What I heard was absolutely adorable.  

They worked together to find a stool that would help them reach the shelf with oatmeal.  This failed so they decided to grab the raw oatmeal instead of the instant oatmeal packets.  "It's really good, Drew.  I promise it's really good," my oldest assured his brother.  "Now let's see...we need milk.  I can't reach the milk.  How about water?"  My youngest was amiable to the idea so I listened to the clanking of bowls and the dumping of oatmeal.  This, of course, created a huge mess.  "OH NO DREW!  You spilled everywhere!  That's okay," he said, regaining his composure, "Everybody spills.  But you have to clean it up.  I'll get some paper towels."  My oldest busied himself with adding water to the oats while my toddler cleaned up then presented this masterpiece of a breakfast.

"Dis gross," my toddler said to his brother.  "Me not like it."  "What do you mean you don't like it?" my youngest exclaimed.  And then I started hearing my husband and I in his words.  "I just went to all that work to make it for you!  Did you even try it?"  he asked.  "It disgusting," my toddler said.  "Okay fine.  I'm going to throw it away.  Once it's gone, it's gone.  Got it?" he said with an authoritative voice.  My toddler was not at all swayed.  "Okay.  Me get Mama now?"

I was so proud of them for trying to figure it out on their own (even though the kitchen looked like it has snowed oatmeal).  But it was crazy hearing my oldest repeat our expressings verbatim.  "Everybody spills"  and "Once it's gone it's gone" are both things we say all the time.  He even mimiced our tone.  Everyone says that kids are sponges and they listen to everything we say.  I think they mostly pay attention when we are busy worrying about other things.  They watch even when we don't want them to be watching.  

It's a huge lesson to me to stay aware.  I have to model the behavior I want to see.  I can't just talk about what I expect - It doesn't resonate as much as my own choices do.  Some of the things I heard my son say made me rethink my approach.  Do I really need to make them feel guilty about the time I spent cooking?  Does that help them to be better people?  Probably not.  I encourage you to listen to your own words today.  Would you proud of them if you heard them back?  If not, a few tiny changes might make all the difference in your own children's world.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Little Flirt

"I like your sparkly shirt," my oldest said to the girl checking us out at TJ Maxx.  "Oh!  Thank you!" she said to him.  I looked over at him to see his little cheeks flush.  He had locked his eyes on this pretty 20 something and, for the first time since birth, he was at a loss for words.  He did his best to keep the conversation moving.  "I'm Luke.  That's L-U-K-E," he began.  "So...Do you live here?" he asked her.  "I might as well!  I work SO much - Like thirteen hours a day," she said in a way only young women can pull off.  My very literal five year old responded, "It must be cool to live at TJ Maxx."

When we got in the car I said, "That girl was really pretty wasn't she?"  He sighed and said, "The one with the sparkly shirt?  Yeah, she really was."  It was the first time he has even noticed a girl was pretty.  It was the first time I watched him truly try to gain the attention of a woman.  He wasn't spouting facts about trains or trucks or whatever else was on his mind.  He wanted to know about her.  It was really cool to see.

While I didn't find myself feeling sad about this turn of events, I did gain a new awareness.  I have always known that I will only be number one for a short time.  I still have plenty of time before crushes and dating truly start but it made me aware of how precious this time is.  

I hate to admit it but there are times when he wants a third hug and I think, "Ugh, I just want to go to bed!"  There are times when he wants to snuggle and I spend the time making a mental list of all the things I need to get done instead of enjoying that moment.  He wants my attention all the time and it can feel so...demanding.

I can't change that feeling but I can look at it a bit differently.  I can remember how fast my time with them will go.  I can feel how wonderful it is to be so loved that they want to be with me all the time.  Because soon, they will have their own lives.  I will no longer be the central character.  In fact, I might even be the most annoying character as they go through their teen years.  So tonight I'm going to give that third hug with a bit more willingness.  I'm going to hug him and thank God for making him mine, even if it's just for a little while.  

Have your children begun to pull away from the nest a bit?  Are you surprised by your reaction? How can you be encouraging and loving during their neediness and their independence?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Help Me Feel Better

My husband and I are relatively new to open prayer.  We've always been spiritual but, over the past few years, we have learned more and more about what it means to be good Christians.  My husband reads  a kindergarten level Bible to the boys in the morning and we are learning the stories right along with them.  We're doing our best to make sure our children have a relationship with God even when we aren't always sure what that might look like.  That's why my heart warmed when I caught our toddler praying.

At 2 1/2, he is very busy and constantly on the move.  He trips at least three times a day and has the scrapes to prove it.  His knees and hands always have a scuff on them but this week his "boo boos" were a bit worse.  He had three fingers with band-aids and one of the cuts was starting to look infected.  I had just cleaned up his cuts and put on fresh band-aids and I went in the other room to throw away the wrappers.  When I returned, I heard this:  "Help me feel better," my son said.  I thought he was talking to me so I asked him, "Did you need me to help you feel better, love?"  "No...Me just ask God, 'Please make me feel better.'  He fix my boo-boos," he answered.  And he's right.  God will.

For kids, it is much simpler.  Why should he doubt that God will heal what ails him?  But as adults we find it so difficult to give our hurts to God.  We want to be in control.  We want to believe that we can fix everything but we can't.  My son reminded me how important it is to trust God completely with whatever I am struggling with and then move on.  Trust.  It really should be that simple.

Do you give your troubles to God?  How can you give up some of the control and trust with the heart of a child?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Best. Baby. Ever.

My toddler has a very tender heart.  He's the first one say, "I love you so much!" and the first one to cuddle up on my lap.  But he has a new woman in his life.  He has fallen head over heels for his baby sister.

He tries to break in her room a few times a day just to say, "It's okay, Rosie!" and if I try to dissuade him he'll tell me that, "She's crying for me!"  He says this even when she is sleeping soundly.  I worry about her safety with this thirty five pound bowling ball of a brother that loves to lay on top of her to give her hugs.  But when she gives him the biggest smile I have seen in days, I know the love is mutual.

This morning my toddler came in to my room right after I had finished feeding her.  I had her propped up on my lap and my toddler jumped right on the bed so he could see her face to face.  "Rosie!  Rosie!  Rosie!" he yelled trying to get her to respond.  "She said, 'good morning big brother!'" I said in hopes that he would stop saying her name over and over again.  I hadn't had any coffee quite yet and I'm not always nice before that first cup.  Anyway, it didn't work.  "Rosie!  Rosie!" he continued.  "You need to eat?" he asked her.  "Nope, I just fed her, love," I said.  "Me talking to Rosie," he reminded me.  "Oh yes.  She said, 'I just ate but thank you!'"  I said in my best Rosie voice.  "Your belly full?" he asked her.  "Yes!  I'm ready for a nap now," I said.  "Me give you big hug and kiss," he said to her.  He barreled

into her and I braced for impact.  "Night night, Rosie.  You best. baby. EVER!" he said as he threw his hands into the air.

I swear that God is showing me this in the midst of my other two fighting to remind me that they all do really love each other.  I know, without a doubt, that my kids will end up with an incredible bond.  I expect them to be very different and to fight for their individuality.  I expect them to drive each other absolutely crazy a lot of the time.  But I also expect them to love and respect each other at the end of the day.  I know this because I know each one of their hearts and they are pure and good and kind.  Thank you, God, for the reminder.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Mental Maternity Leave

"Wow - You finally wrote something for Perchable.  It's been awhile," my husband said to me last night as he checked his email.  At first I felt defensive.  "Of course I haven't been writing!  I'm too busy running around like a crazy woman to write!" I thought.  Then I realized that it was one more thing to add to the list of things that was okay to give up as I figured out life with three kids.  Before she was born, I fully intended to keep writing.  I figured I was an old pro at this newborn thing and I could just keep right on trucking.  Not the case.  I started compiling a list in my mind of all the things that I had forgotten about the newborn stage and thought I would share it with you just in case you are living it right along with me.

Most of your time is spent feeding or cleaning up poop, puke and pee.  
My little one eats every three hours which doesn't seem like so much.  The actual feeding part is only ten minutes or so but then she needs to burp which leads to spit up on one or both of us.  This results in a clothing change for one or both of us.  I change her diaper and hope I don't get peed or pooped on.  If I don't, I usually find that poop has crept up her back and that I need to change her pretty little poop covered outfit.  By the time we're done, she wants to be fed again so we snuggle up for another feeding.  Meanwhile, I have two wonderfully energetic boys trying to jump on the bed, play catch and ask at least three dozen questions.

You won't know the answer to questions that start with "Did you..."
"Did you hear about that earthquake?" my dad asked me.  "What earthquake?" I asked him right back.
 "Did you hear about the shooting at Fort Hood?"  my husband asked me.  "The one last year?" I said back.  
"Did you take out the chicken for dinner?" my husband asked me.  "Did you ask me to do that?"
I have absolutely no idea what is happening beyond the walls of my house and some of that even escapes my attention.  If I remember to switch the clothes from the washer to the dryer, I feel as if I have achieved a great victory.  I'll catch up on the news in a few months.

You will have no idea what day it is, let alone the month.
I read a devotional with my husband every morning that has the date and still I find myself thinking, "It can't be February...Is it March?  June.  It's got to be June," as we open up the pages.  When life is in a 24 hour cycle, time seems to fly by at a pace that is hard to comprehend.  I honestly thought I had been writing fairly frequently for Perchable until I looked at the archives.  Time only matters for the next feeding and nap time.

You will be more in love than you have ever been in your whole life.
Everytime I look at her, I am overwhelmed with love.  She is my answered prayer.  She is my dream come true.  And so are my crazy boys.  I see them all snuggled up on the bed together and feel the tears springing up into my eyes.  I don't care what month it is or what is happening in the world when I am surrounded by these incredible little people that make my world go round.  

If you are in a particularly overwhelming period of parenting (and let's face it, MOST of parenting is overwhelming!) then take heart and give yourself a little leeway.  You are doing the very best you can at this moment.  That is always enough.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

50 Hour Time Out

We went to my sister's house last night for dinner and it gave the cousins (ages 2, 4, 5, and 6) time to play together.  I love being at my sister's house.  Not only does she have a fully stocked wine fridge, but she also has an expansive back yard with every thing a little boy would want to do.  Trampoline?  Check.  Zip line?  Check.  Basketball hoop?  Check.  Their options are endless and we can simply let them play outside while we sip wine and talk about whatever is on our minds.  But inevitably this bliss is interrupted by someone being wronged.  Yesterday was no exception.

We heard one of them screaming hysterically from the trampoline.  NO!  STOP IT!  I SAID TO STOP IT RIGHT NOW!" my sister's four year old shrieked.  She walked over to the trampoline and pulled him aside.  "Off the trampoline," she said firmly.  "We don't scream at our friends.  You're done for five minutes."  She picked up our conversation exactly where we had left off (a trick only mothers can do) until, exactly five minutes later, the shrieking commenced once again.  We both sighed and listened to see if we needed to intervene.  

We heard footsteps pounding on the wood floors behind us and looked up to see her four year old running to her arms.  He had crocodile tears streaming down his face and he was struggling to catch his breath.  "They..are...being...so...mean...to...me!" he said in between sobs and gulps of air.  My sister stayed calm and stroked his hair, fulling knowing that he had actually been the real problem.  "Tell me what happened, love," she said.  "They wouldn't stop jumping on the trampoline when I said to stop.  I put them in time out for FIFTY HOURS and (sobs begin full force again) THEY WOULDN'T LISTEN!!!" he cried.  He buried his head in her shoulder as we fought not to laugh at this severe punishment.  "I know that must have been frustrating buddy, but you aren't a grown up and can't punish your cousins.  If you don't want to play like they are playing, it's okay to go do something else," she shared.  "Okay!" he said as he jumped off her lap to return to the fray.

Don't we all wish we could put people in time out for 50 hours?  Sounds like a great deal to me.  But, alas, we can't.  Even though we are grown-ups.  The good news?  While we can't put all the people that drive us crazy in time-out, we can take a break and do something else.  There's nothing like a little space and time to give you perspective and help you jump right back into the fray.  

How do you deal with frustrating people?  Tiny people you birthed count, too.  How can you give yourself the time and space to gain perspective?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sibling Rivalry

I am still on a mission to understand sibling rivalry from a parenting perspective.  I remember the fights with my siblings all too well (like the time I actually threw a rock at my sister's head) and it always seemed like my parents overreacted to them.  Now, as a parent, their shrieking, pinching, yelling and fighting has my nerves frayed. I know there has got to be a better way.  There was a book my mom read when we were younger and its yellowed cover is still on her bookshelf.  I asked to borrow it for some insights.  It's aptly called, Siblings Without Rivalry.

It's written by two women with grown children that did not end up killing each other so I figure they must know what they are talking about.  I powered through the first few chapters and had a few new things to try.  First, they took me through an exercise to understand where my children are coming from.  They encouraged me to imagine my husband coming home with a second wife because, "I was so perfect he just had to have another one like me."  They asked how I would feel when everyone paid lots of attention to her.  They asked how I would feel if I talked to my husband about my need to get her out of the house and he responded with, "Get used to it.  She's part of the family now.  I love you both the same."  Wow, right?  I wanted to kill this fictitious wife before I even finished the exercise!  

The point was to remember that our children need their feelings validated as much as we do.  Wouldn't it make a difference if my husband said, "You must feel like your whole world has turned upside down," instead of, "get used to it"?  I read through example after example of what this would look like in a parenting role and, armed with a few ideas, I went in the field to try them out.

It took exactly two minutes for a fight to break out.  "DREW!  I said LEAVE MY LEGO BUILDING ALONE!"  my oldest exclaimed from the other room.  "Me play with it, Lukey!" my toddler replied.  "No! I worked really hard on it!" my oldest tried to explain.  Then I heard the Lego building crash to the floor. My oldest ran into the laundry room where I was folding clothes.  "Drew just crashed my Lego building after I told him not to!" he said forlornly.  Before, I would have said, "work it out with your brother," but now I knew that he needed empathy not advice.  "You must be so frustrated!" I said to him.  He cocked his head to one side and studied me for a minute.  This was not what he expected.  "Well yeah, I really am."  By this time, my toddler had followed his brother into the laundry room.  My oldest said, "Drew, next time I ask you not to crash my stuff, don't do it okay?" he requested.  "Okay.  Sorry Lukey," my youngest replied.

I just kept my eye on the clothes I was folding hoping not to break the spell.  I was amazed that they had worked it out themselves.  I used the same technique (just verbalizing their feelings of anger, frustration, etc.) and over and over again they would go back to playing after a quick apology.  After a few hours of this, my oldest came to me and said, "Remember when I cut Drew's finger on the airplane?"  "Yes, I do," I said tentatively.  "Well, I didn't really mean to hurt him at all.  I just wanted the armrest down.  And then he was bleeding and everyone was mad and I really just wanted him to be better," he explained.  "You must have been so scared when that happened," I said.  "Yeah.  I really was, Mommy," he replied.  He hugged my leg and went back to playing.  It was the first time he had ever talked to me openly about this incident that happened six months ago.  Somehow, he must have started to feel safe and heard.

This parenting thing is not for the weary.  It is filled with constant challenges every single day.  But when I stop to remember that they are small people that still need the same things I need, it suddenly gets a bit easier to understand them.  Every one, big or small, needs to have their feelings validated even if they seem totally irrational.  Once we feel loved and accepted, we can get real and so can they.  I'll keep reading and sharing with the hope that I can make your day a bit easier, too.

Do you validate your children's feelings or try to rationalize with them?  How can you put yourself in their shoes a bit more today?
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