letting go (allowing kids to take risks)

taking risks

I have a feeling that the older Evelyn gets, the more “letting go” posts I will be writing.  It seems that from the time they are born, parenting is just a process of letting go, little by little, of our children.

As a first time mom and self-proclaimed worry wort, I am sometimes hyper-vigilant about protecting my child from any possible pain.  Not just imminent pain, but hypothetical pain.  If I could wrap her in an invisible bubble, and shield her from all the heartache this world has to offer, believe me I would.  I worry enough for the whole family and sometimes I worry that my worrying will effect her in a negative way.  Evelyn is already a very sensitive, cautious child.  (I wonder where she gets it?)  She observes, she plans, and she’s not a big risk-taker.  I haven’t done much baby-proofing in my house because I didn’t have to.  She has never really tried to get into the cabinets, climb on the furniture, or pull the dog’s ears.  While it’s been awesome to have such an easy child, I also worry (there I go again) that she is too cautious…and when life does bring her disappointment or pain, she doesn’t handle it very well.  She’s not one to brush it off and keep on going.  But that’s something I want her to learn.  I want her to sometimes take risks and to learn to get back up and keep going if she falls.

This weekend the temps climbed into the 50s and the sun shone bright across cloudless, sapphire skies.  It was perfect for getting out of the house to relieve our cabin fever.  We decided to venture out for a walk in our neighborhood.  There’s an alley that runs by our house.  It climbs uphill past some neighbors and Evelyn loves to walk up and run back down.  Every time she wants to run down that hill, I worry.  What if she falls?  What if she knocks her front teeth out?  Every single time we start to descend that hill, my desire to keep her safe from pain wrestles with my understanding that she needs to be able to run and have fun without me shouting, “Be careful!” after her all the time.

This time, as she started to run, the worrier in me started to fear the worst, but instead, I fought that feeling and ran next to her, enjoying the huge smile on her face as her hair flapped behind her.  She was having so much fun and I didn’t want to ruin that moment of freedom for her by imposing my own worries on her psyche.  She triumphantly made it to the bottom of the hill and I was feeling good about myself that I had allowed her to take that risk.  Then she wanted to do it again.  This time she ascended the hill with her daddy.  I poised myself at the bottom of the hill and pulled out my camera so that I could capture the huge smile on her face as she neared the bottom.  I never got to take that picture because about halfway down the hill, she fell.

Dec 26 (3)

Her daddy scooped her up and she immediately went into a breath-holding spell.  The words started to come out of my mouth, wanting to blame it on someone, “That’s why I hate the idea of her running….” but then I stopped.  What good what it do?  She had taken a risk, she had fallen, and it was nobody’s fault.  All we could do was pick her up and assess the damage, and help her to move on.  The damage came in the form of a large goose egg on her forehead with no damage to the rest of her face or teeth.  Typically, after a breath-holding spell she gets very tired and since she hadn’t napped, we had to fight to keep her awake for a few hours, until I felt comfortable allowing her to go to bed.  For awhile, nothing could soothe her pain, but when I asked her if she wanted to help me make some cookies in the kitchen, she brightened up and was right as rain in a few minutes.  Later, I showed her the bump in the mirror and she looked at it strangely, but didn’t seem to care.  The next morning, I asked her what happened to her head, wondering if she would remember the incident.  She struggled to even remember that there was anything wrong with her head.

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This letting go thing is going to be an ongoing struggle for me.  As she grows, and starts taking bigger risks, I will have to grow too. Sometimes letting go means having to watch your child get hurt.  This made me think of all the times my mom had to sit back and watch while I took risks and made mistakes, from my trips to Europe to my relationship decisions.  She probably wanted to tell me all the reasons my choices could end badly, but she didn’t.  She let me learn and let me grow and I built the strength I needed to fly because she didn’t put me in a bubble.  Sometimes things worked out great, and sometimes I fell and got hurt…and then she helped me assess the damage and helped me to move on.  And just as my mom did this for me, I will do my best to carry it forward for Evelyn…because all the best moments require us to let go, cast off our worries, and take a little risk.

What risk had the biggest payoff for you?

How do you handle watching your children take risks?

This post is linked up to Our Sunday Best on Momnivore’s Dilemma!

from crib to bed

 

big girl bed

Let me preface this post by saying that I probably did everything “wrong” when I decided to transition Evelyn into her toddler bed.  In fact, I know I did.  After we made the transition, I looked at all the advice out there and realized I did it all wrong.  I didn’t set a date and mark it on the calendar.  We didn’t have a conversation about it ahead of time.  I didn’t take her shopping for new bedding. It happened as a result of ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ parenting.  First of all, I didn’t even really decide to do it.  I did it completely on a whim.  I had been contemplating the change for a few months but was actually afraid to take the leap.  I was worried that it would take a lot of work and I would lose a lot of sleep.  However, on Saturday afternoon, about a week ago, I was desperate for Evelyn to take a nap.  Lately, she’s been refusing to nap on weekends, even though I know she sleeps every day during the week at daycare.  I guess I thought that if I took the front slats off of her crib, I could sit on the floor next to her bed and pat her back (like they do at daycare) and maybe, just maybe, she would fall asleep.  I probably don’t have to tell you that my plan backfired but…

In a moment of weakness, I asked her if she wanted me to turn her crib into a “big girl bed.”  Her response was a resounding “yes!”  So, I did.  And she was so excited.  The look of surprise and delight on her face was priceless.  She giggled and squealed and crawled up into her bed…but she didn’t stay there.  I pulled a “big girl” pillow from the extras in our closet and put a pink pillowcase on it.  We arranged her favorite blankets.  Her bed was all ready to go.  But she wasn’t.  Suffice it to say that she didn’t nap that day.  Go figure.

That first night it was pretty easy to get her to sleep.  She hadn’t napped after all, so she was pretty tired.  I read her a few stories while she rested in her new bed.  When it didn’t seem like she was going to fall asleep easily in the bed, I rocked her and sang a few songs to her, like I normally do, and when she seemed almost asleep, I put her in her bed and patted her for a few seconds until she was out.  Pretty easy.  However, around 3am, she fell out of the bed.  Despite the fact that I used the pool noodle under the sheet trick that I’d seen on Pinterest, I woke up to a thump and then a cry from the baby monitor.  In hindsight, I probably could have rocked her for about 5 minutes and put her back into her bed, but my mommy guilt (instincts…whatever you want to call it) made me bring her into bed with us.  The first night was kind of a fail.

The good news is that since then, we haven’t had a problem.  I am happy to say that she is sleeping all night in her toddler bed, and hasn’t fallen out since that first night.  Despite going against all the tips out there, I think there is one major thing we did right (and several ways we just got lucky) to make this work.

I think the most important thing we did is that we set up a really consistent bedtime routine from a very young age.  Evelyn started sleeping in the crib in her own room at about 2 months.  Around that same time, she figured out how to suck her thumb, so she was able to self-soothe, put herself back to sleep, and it was at that point that she began sleeping through the night.  I have no illusions about the fact that Michael and I have been extraordinarily lucky in the sleep department.  In the beginning, we did spend quite a bit of time “tag-teaming” at bedtime, basically taking turns rocking, singing, holding, etc until she went to sleep.  But what does any of that have to do with her sleeping now?  I guess the point is that she has always slept in the same bed, gone to sleep around the same time, and had the same routine (brush teeth, read books, sing songs or hear music, sleep).  She is used to her bed and since her toddler bed is really just her crib with the front piece removed, it was an easy transition in that respect.

Ok, well I guess that really is the only thing I can take credit for in easing this transition for my daughter.  The rest is pure good fortune… blessings from heaven.  Most of the “big transitions” have been harder for me than they have for her.  I always anticipate that it’s going to be a huge issue and she always makes the changes almost effortless.  But don’t hate me, folks.  It’s not all sunshine and rainbows over here.  So, after this it’s onto potty training.  What are the chances she’ll continue the trend??

parenting for educated dummies, lesson 1

It occurred to me recently that I’ve become that parent.  You know the one that gives her child too many choices and over-explains things? Yep, that’s me.  Guilty.

I had a particularly stressful day, one where I had myself convinced that I would never be able to leave the house again and that my little monster was plotting to slowly drive me insane.  I ended up on the receiving end of a phone call from my mom in which I was reduced to a sobbing heap on the couch.

My mom hasn’t given me a lot of parenting advice along the way and I don’t know exactly why.  I don’t know if it’s because I am an older first-time parent and I have spent a lot of my adult life working with young children.  Maybe it’s because she is afraid to be a prying mom or afraid that she will upset me.  Or maybe it’s because she’s still the awesome mom she’s always been and she allows me the space to figure things out on my own (I think that’s the one). Mom’s always been good at the art of reflective supervision. It’s a practice that I use in my work, but it can be used and applied to so many areas of life. It’s being able to listen to someone going through difficult circumstances and ask thoughtful questions that allow that person to reflect, come to their own conclusions, and make decisions about how to move forward, without offering unsolicited advice.

So, really, my mom didn’t have to point out my weaknesses. I already know what they are. It was just nice to have someone listen as I talked my way through it. When I was pregnant and during the newborn phase, I read a lot. I was online constantly trying to learn as much as I could about what to expect. My mom would always gently remind me that sometimes knowing too much can be a burden and of course, she was right. I have worked in the field of Early Childhood Education for almost 10 years. I know a lot about child development, more than the average bear. But everything I know goes right out the window when my adorable little blondie cries and tells me “Evelyn do it. All by myself.” I know that children her age are longing to be independent and it’s great to give them choices like Would you like to wear your green diaper or your purple diaper?  Would you like yogurt or cheese for your snack? Choices like these allow children some power and control and the choices can be limited so that they are acceptable to the parent. But, there are some rules that have to be decided upon by the parent and are non-negotiable. They will vary from family to family, but for us it’s rules like sitting in the cart at the grocery store instead of walking around “all by myself” and sitting in her booster chair at the kitchen table whenever she’s eating instead of running and hopping around with food in her mouth. Lately, she’s been testing the boundaries of my non-negotiable rules and I’ve been negotiating a little too often, which has led to confusion and frustration for both of us.

I attended a session at a conference a few years ago and the topic was child guidance. The presenter handed us a list of about ten rules that we were to read, memorize, and then recite back to a partner. They were silly rules like, You can’t jump on the couch except when it’s early in the morning and I haven’t had my coffee yet. The point of the exercise was to illustrate how inconsistent adults can be with their rules and how important it is for children to know what’s expected of them.  I think everyone in the room had the same reaction that was basically, Well, crap, haven’t we all done this?! Yes, we have. It’s hard to enforce rules when you are tired or in a hurry or just frustrated, but you can see where the confusion comes in for children.

Ok, so after my conversation with mom I’ve decided that I need to be a little more consistent. I still think it’s important to explain the reason for rules, but I try to keep it simple. For example, Evelyn wants to walk all by herself to the car when I pick her up from daycare. I explain to her that she can walk by herself but she has to hold my hand because there are a lot of cars and I want her to be safe. If she refuses to hold my hand, I will have to carry her to the car. Sometimes she complies, sometimes she throws herself down in the middle of the parking lot.  But either way, I have to follow through with the two choices I’ve offered, which might result in having to pick up a limp toddler while she screams, No, mommy, no!  Not nice!  It’s ok.  I’m sure this won’t be the last time I am a big, old meanie.

Sometimes everything I know just flies right out the window when I let my emotions get in the way.  They weren’t kidding when they said, It’s different when it’s your own kid.  

Thanks for the call, mom. 🙂

 

someday

I’m a highly sensitive person.  I take a lot of things to heart.  I cry at the drop of a hat.  I’m weepy, a sap if you will.  My eyes well up during praise time at church.  Sometimes I cry when I watch my daughter sleeping (and then I wonder why she’s so sensitive).

I found this book at a thrift shop today and I started to get teary-eyed after about 3 pages, so I stopped reading and just bought the thing.  When I took it home, my husband read it to Evelyn in its entirety.  I bawled my eyes out.  It’s simple and beautiful and I’ll probably never be able to actually read it to my daughter without getting all choked up.

Do you have a favorite book that you read to your child?  Is there one in particular that pulls at your heart strings?

someday

almost 2

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It’s so hard for me to believe that my little girl is almost two.  In exactly 1 month, we will sing our Happy Birthday song and hopefully she will blow out the candles and not grab the hot wicks like she did last year.  I’ve been talking to her about it and she’s been practicing holding up two fingers to show everyone how old she will be.  She even sings along, Happy Doothday to YOU!

The second year seems to have flown by faster than the first and it’s so very apparent that what we have here is a little girl and not a baby anymore.

Miss Evelyn has become fiercely independent, wanting to do everything for herself and resisting any kind of help from Michael and me.  It can be supremely frustrating at times, but I know she is developing many of the skills she will need to function in the world, so we try to be patient as she goes about the routines of the day at a turtle’s speed, with tears in her eyes when she can’t do what she wants to do and gigantic smiles, bursting with pride, when she accomplishes even the tiniest of goals.

I love watching her play. Every movement is so intentional. She examines, studies, and explores, talking to herself and singing all the little songs that we’ve taught her.  She loves to sing and dance. I catch her singing to herself all the time (The ABC Song, Jesus Loves Me, Twinkle, Twinkle, Frere Jacques, and Old McDonald).  Michael turns on a Swan Lake video and she twirls like a ballerina.  She’s getting much better at climbing, much to my chagrin, and she loves to show me how she can walk backwards.

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I always told myself I wouldn’t raise a pampered princess girly girl, but Evelyn loves to be girly all on her own. She loves to play dress up and put on her “make-up” and she even got excited when she saw me laying out her clothes for picture day and she saw that I laid out a pair of stockings.  Today I brought home some coats that a co-worker gave me and some shoes that I picked up at a consignment shop.  She had so much fun trying them on and cried when we told her she had to take her shoes off for bed.

I never realized how complicated it could be to introduce spiritual concepts to children. My knowledge of early childhood development tells me that most Bible stories are inappropriate for a child her age and the concept of believing in an unseen force is way to abstract for her to grasp, but she just seems to know. In the middle of a tantrum I can say to her, “You seem really frustrated. You should ask Jesus to help you with that.” and she replies, “OK” and calms right down. She will bring me her Daddy’s big books and say, “Let’s read a book about Jesus.” We have started saying prayers at bedtime and even if she is fighting me to get ready for bed, she will listen calmly to my prayers and fall asleep shortly after I’ve finished.

She is such a sensitive soul, which can be good and bad. She tends to cry at the drop of the hat, but is very much in tune with other’s feelings.  She gets visibly upset when she talks about others being sad or hurt.  I love that we’re starting to be able to have full conversations.  She loves to talk…and talk…and talk.

Oh, how I love this kid.  I can’t believe she is going to be 2 in a few short weeks.

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learning about feelings (welcome home, daddy!)

daddy

I have been such a bad mom when it comes to recording milestones.  I don’t know why.  Evelyn does and says amazing things every day and I think, man, I should write that down.  But then I don’t.  Bad mommy.

A few nights ago something happened that just melted my heart so here I am, writing it down.  I did, after all, commit to writing one post a day for the whole month, so prepare for random thoughts and ponderings…

We were out in the rain for Evelyn’s first Trick or Treat and we were anxiously awaiting Michael’s return home from 8 long weeks of job training.  About a half hour (and approximately 5 houses) in, I got a call from him.  He was stranded, in the rain, at a seedy gas station, about 30 miles away.  Car trouble.  I had to pack up our costumed baby and go get him.

About 10 minutes into the drive, Evelyn started to get fussy and cry.  She wanted out of her car seat.  I was surrounded by huge trucks on the windy, wet interstate and I had to try to calm her down so I could focus on the road.  As a result, we had a conversation that went something like this:

Me:  Evelyn, listen.  Daddy’s car is broken and he is stuck so we have to go get him.  I know you don’t like being in your car seat, but you have to try to be patient.  We will be there soon.

E:  We help him?

Me:  Yes, we’re going to help him.

E:  Oh, no, Daddy!  Daddy stuck!  Daddy, daddy, daddy!

Me:  It’s ok.  Daddy’s ok.  We just have to get him because his car is broken.

E:  Daddy say, Help me please?

Me:  Yes, Daddy needs help.  We’re going to help him.

E:  Don’t worry, Daddy.  Don’t worry……..Daddy crying?

Me:  No Daddy’s not crying.  He’s waiting for us.

E:  Don’t worry Daddy.

We went back and forth like this for awhile.  I love that she’s starting to be able to recognize feelings and identify with other’s feelings as well.  If there is one quality that I want her to have, it’s compassion for others.

I think she’s so happy that her Daddy is home.  She’s been walking around the house all day saying, “Mommy and Daddy and Evelyn, Mommy and Daddy and Evelyn.”  

Melt.

I’m so glad he’s home too.  Now we can try to figure out our new “normal” around here.

Until the next bump in the road….

 

open letter to a stay-at-home-dad

Memorial Day (25)

Dear Michael,

I know we didn’t plan for this, but life is messy and plans don’t always work out.  God knows, what we plan for ourselves is usually far less grand than what He has planned for us.  What do we know anyway?  Who knew that you’d be at home with our little girl…her constant, her steady, her rock.   As a brand-new, first-time, huge-ball-of-nerves mom, I was nervous to leave my sweet, new baby at home with you (and I admit, a little jealous too.) I kept reminding myself, He loves her just as much as I do. He won’t let anything happen to her.  I had my doubts about whether you would be able to handle it.  I pictured a poor, screaming baby and a frustrated, exhausted Daddy.  I imagined every worst-case scenario and every potential disaster, but those things never happened.  You took on this new role, this role you hadn’t planned for, and you owned it.  From feedings and cloth diapers to doctor visits and sing-alongs, you’ve handled it all, and without a single complaint.

January 2012 (15)

I know the past 16 months haven’t been easy for you, even if you’ve made them look that way.  I know that you’ve been frustrated and stir-crazy at times.  And even though you might not have noticed it through the monotony of the day to day, this experienced has changed you.  It has been such a joy to watch the two of you grow together.  Every milestone, every triumph has been yours as much as it’s been hers.

May 2012 (12)

You probably have no idea but, you’ve taught me so much about being a mom.  You’ve taught me how to let go.  You’ve helped me cast away many of my new-mom anxieties. You might not do things the  way I would do them, but you do them like only you could.  The way you read her stories with silly voices, fling her up on your shoulders when she’s getting antsy, and sing her through her daily routines.  You are so very patient with her and she adores you. It’s said that God knows the desires of our hearts and even though I sometimes wish that I could be at home with our girl, He knows how very much I’ve always wanted my babies to have a Daddy like you.  I am so very grateful for everything you do and for the way you’ve shaped Evelyn into the amazing little girl that she is.  Thank you.

With all my love and much gratitude,

Happy Father’s Day!

Love,

Me ❤

a little bit of grown-up time

I’m feeling refreshed on this quiet Sunday.  My parents took Evelyn on Friday night, so Michael and I decided to spend our leisurely Saturday strolling around and shopping.  Before Evelyn (would it be wrong to refer to that time period as BE?) we used to spend one Saturday a month strolling the shops, sipping our coffee, eating out for lunch, and picking up little things we needed (or didn’t need) for around the house.  Now that we have an active toddler on our hands, it’s difficult to do much of anything before she’s shouting “all done!!”  which is her way of saying, “Thank you very much, but I’ve had enough of this stroller/cart/car seat, so unless you’re planning to let me run around and tear up the place, it’s time to go home.”  She does very much enjoy doing this:

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She will stay with the cart and not wander around, but you can’t stop.  Must. keep. moving.  This makes it rather difficult to do any comparison shopping or to mull over your choices.  Michael told me he sometimes will circle the aisle with her several times so that he can look at an item for more than a few seconds…and yet her speed of travel is agonizingly slow.

Anyway, I’ve gone off track.  Or what was I talking about anyway?

Oh, so we got our tax refund and while we are planning to put most of it into savings, we have reserved a certain amount to purchase some things.  Momma needed some new clothes (that fit!) and we needed to get a few things for Evelyn too.  Mainly, a new car seat.  We ended up getting a jogging stroller for Michael and a few other odds and ends.

So, we had a sleeping in, coffee sippin’, leisurely strolling, one-bag toting, napping kind of day and we got to do our grocery shopping, just us grown-ups.  Ah, it’s the little things.  What do you miss about life before kids?  Do you give yourself time to do those things every once in awhile?

“nah!”

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This little lovely is giving me a run for my money.  She’s learned the word “no”.  True, it sounds more like “nah,” but the meaning is the same.  I thought that was supposed to come a bit later in her development, but this kid knows what she wants (and doesn’t want) and is now capable of telling me so.  Reading books and looking at family photos in this chair is part of our nighttime routine.  Tonight she crawled up there all by herself.  When it was time to go to sleep, I put the lights out and put on some music.  She listened and sucked her thumb while I rocked her, but several songs later, her eyes were still wide open, looking at me.  Sometimes she responds better to my singing, so I turned off the music and started to sing.  Still, her eyes remained open.  I tried putting her in the crib, taking her back out, more music, and then finally we had a little conversation that went something like this:

Me:  Do you want me to sing to you again?  Should I sing Awa? (one of our special songs)

Evelyn: Awa

Me: (Singing) Awa, awa, awa….

Evelyn: Nah!!

Me:  Ok, what about Jesus Loves Me?  (singing) Jesus loves me, this I know….

Evelyn:  Nah!!

Me:  Sweet Baby James?  (singing) Oh, there is a young cowboy…

Evelyn:  Nah!!

Me:  What about Somewhere Over the Rainbow?  (singing) Some-where….

Evelyn:  Nah!!

Eventually, I did get her to sleep with a little milk, a little help from daddy and his no-fail playlist, but man, I had no idea a kid this age could be so choosy.  I can’t even imagine what the teenage years will be like.

After tonight, I’m definitely working on teaching her how to say “yes.”

yes, i’m one of THOSE moms

Yesterday, we had our first real snow of the year.  Ok, well maybe I wouldn’t classify it as a real snow.  It was only an inch or two of accumulation and it didn’t stick around, but it was beautiful while it lasted.  I have been super photo-lazy these days, so I didn’t get any good photos of it, but Michael takes pictures of the baby during the day and sends them to me at work.  Some days they make me jealous, but these made me smile (though they did make me want to go home, crawl into my pajamas, and curl up with Evie by the window).

Mainly I love getting pictures at work because I like to brag up my hubby and all the cool things he does with Evelyn.  Yesterday, he brought the snow inside so Evie could play…

…and eat.

And while I was driving to work this morning (I have a lot of time to think in the car) I started thinking about how I love to brag up my hubby and baby, but I also feel self-conscious about doing so.  And then it made me sad to think about how women tend to judge each other and assume that a little proud story-telling means that we’re trying to one-up each other.  A story about something terrible happening will elicit sympathy and commiseration, but a story about the amazing thing your baby did last night (gave me an unprompted kiss!) makes you one of THOSE moms.

You know what?  My kid is awesome.

She started signing around 8 months and now she speaks about 10-15 words and says new ones every day.

She’s pooped on the potty twice.

She drinks from a regular cup.

She tries to put on her own socks.

She’ll request to be read a book over and over…and she’ll sit quietly and listen to it.

She’s slept through the night since she’s been 2 1/2 months old.

My husband rocks too.

He does all the laundry and dishes and has dinner ready for me when I get home from work.

He’s incredibly patient with Evelyn and provides great learning experiences for her.

He rubs my feet.

He puts up with my crap and keeps me sane.

But, you know what else?

When Evelyn gets startled or upset, she holds her breath until she passes out…sometimes several times a day.

She’s not walking yet.

She screams at me when I try to change her diaper.

Michael likes to bring up controversial political and religious topics at family gatherings.

His idea of clean is vastly different from my own.

He doesn’t hear about 75% of what I say.

He yells and swears like a sailor during football games and he’s near worthless on Sundays.

My daughter, my husband, and my life are not perfect, but I try really hard to focus on the awesome things about my life.  And I want to hear about what’s awesome in your life too.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place to talk about those things that trouble us.  Everyone needs sympathy and commiseration from time to time.  But why does it seem like people always come together over shared negativity rather than cheering one another on?  I’ll admit that I sometimes get caught up in life’s little irritations and I’ve been known to have a pity-party from time to time, but I also love sharing a good brag about my family, and if that makes me one of THOSE moms, I’m ok with that.