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.

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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??

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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