This week I started my new job! I have been loving it, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to post an entire blog entry this week. Lately, I’ve been reading the Hands Free blog, and I wanted to share an entry that touched my heart and that I thought every parent and caregiver should read.
My oldest is deep in the why stage. If you’ve never experienced this, or if it’s been a while, I thought I’d give you a little insight into what life is like in this stage. Here is a conversation we had in the car:
J: Why does William live so far away?
me: He lives in a different state than we live in. He lives in New Hampshire and we live in Massachusetts.
J: But he didn’t live far away before and now he does.
me: That’s right. He used to live in the same town as us, but he moved away.
J: I know our town (tells me his name and address). You live there and Dad and Matthew too. But I can’t remember how to call on the phone. What is it? (he’s been working on memorizing his phone number – we repeat it a few times) Like when George calls the fire department. He presses the numbers on the phone.
me: Yes, but not the same numbers. The numbers we said only call our house. George dialed the emergency number.
J: what is it?
me: 911. You only call that number if its an emergency though. You can get in big trouble if you call it for fun. Just like George.
me: The number is only for people that need help. If they said the emergency workers for someone just having fun then someone that really needed help might not get it.
me: They would be busy seeing if you needed help and the person that really needed help would be waiting and waiting for them?
me: The emergency workers have to check and make sure there isn’t really an emergency if you call, so they will come to you instead of someone else.
me: That is their job
J: They come when you call 991?
me: no 911.
J: Why is it 911?
me: That is the number that they picked for emergencies.
me: I don’t know. I bet Dad knows. Let’s ask him when he gets home!!!!!
Yes, that is just a short glimpse into the never ending questions I go through every day. My dad line at the end is a favorite when I just can’t go on.
This leads me to a blog post I just read and thought I’d share because I found it interesting!
I know I’ve mentioned Wife Swap before. It’s like a guilty pleasure. I don’t like to admit that I watch it – and I definitely don’t follow the show – but I do, on occasion, like to catch an episode.
One thing that I think really turns people away from the show is that the families are it are SO EXTREME. A mom that works 3 jobs and does all of the housework swaps lives with a mom that has nannies watching the kids and housekeepers cleaning her house, while she goes out to shop and get pampered. A mom that believes her kids should have the freedom to make their own choices about EVERYTHING swaps with a mom that schedules every minute of her children’s lives and enforces severe disciple to the most minor offense. Sometimes it does seem like they learn something from each other, but often they spend their time defending their choices and pointing out how the other people are wrong.
I’ve seen these extremes in teaching styles in classrooms, and in available curriculum. It just makes me wonder why the middle of the road isn’t an option for some people. Do you really feel like you have to choose between having children that are free thinkers and children that are well-behaved? A huge movement in parenting right now is what I’ve heard people call the “yes” movement. It’s like the Montessori teaching philosophy taken to the extreme and applied to home life. Allow children to explore and do what they want, and they will naturally learn because it follows their interests. They will also learn natural consequences to control their behavior.
I do think that children are often more intelligent than people give them credit for, and their ability to learn their desire to explore is phenomenal. I think this movement is particularly seen as being needed among those parents that take an extreme view of discipline as reaction to the belief that young adults now are lazy and feel entitled. However, I don’t think using it 100% of the time is best for kids, and seems like many are taking it as all or nothing.
Anyhow, watching Wife Swap makes me want to scream, “Compromise! Take lessons from both sides! Use the best of both worlds!” Also, sometimes reading other mommy blogs and parenting philosophy articles makes me want to scream the same thing.
So yes, relax and give your children freedom. Realize that you can believe in them and trust them, but also don’t be afraid to teach them. Teach them what is important to you and what you believe. You are their parents!
What extremes have you experienced?
I have been thinking a great deal lately about how incredibly influential a parent’s behavior is on their child. How often do you think about which parent a child reminds you of, or think just how similar a child is to a parent? If you’re a parent, how often do you hear your child imitating things you say and do?
I find more and more that the behavior I model for my children is much more influential on them than the rules I set up for them. Yikes! What a great deal of pressure! I can tell my children not to yell, but what if I yell? I can tell them to be kind, but what if I lose my patience? I can teach them how to be friendly, but what if I don’t even acknowledge the boy checking out my groceries?
So really, I just wanted to say, I’m working on me. I’m trying to be the person I want my children to be. I’m working at modeling for them what is important to me. I’m trying to walk the walk, and not just talk the talk.
This week I’ve really noticed how I speak to them and to others. I’ve been working on speaking respectfully to them. Talking respectfully seems obvious. I wouldn’t say I’m disrespectful, but I can tend to not be very respectful. For instance, adding please to requests, even when they’re time sensitive. Looking them in the eye when I talk to them. Making sure to thank them when appropriate. Asking their opinion on certain things. Speaking in a calm voice at all times. Considering their requests, even when I feel like laughing at them.
As far as speaking to others, I feel I am usually courteous and kind. I wouldn’t say I’m particularly friendly. I think as a young woman, I learned it was better not to be too friendly. I think I must have the kind of face that says, “Talk to me strangers! Tell me about your lives! Tell me all your troubles! I’m a great listener, and I want to be your friend!” Often when I was out alone, I would hear people’s life stories. I learned to avoid eye contact and to keep small talk to a minimum so I could go about my business. This probably sounds kind of strange, but its true. Now, though? I have more time to linger and talk. I also have the perfect excuse to go if need be (the baby is hungry, it’s nap time). So, I’m working on being friendlier. You know what? I like being friendly! I feel like I’m coming back to the person I used to be. I don’t want my children to be afraid to smile and speak to others, because they kind of are now. “Stranger awareness” is something I don’t think we’ll have too much trouble with. We’re completely on the other end of that.
Anyhow, that’s just what I want to work on now. There will certainly be more things I need to watch for in the future, but for now, I just wanted to point out what a terrifying and amazing opportunity parents have to model behavior.
When I was a kid, I remember journaling during vacations. I don’t know if my parents made me do it, or if I was just that weird kind of kid, but I remember doing it. When I went to England as an adult, and was engaged there, I was glad that I had been keeping a journal. Now, with kids, it is difficult to remember to journal on vacation. So, when we went to Florida last month, I took pictures every day with a plan in mind. As soon as I returned home, I uploaded all of my photos to shutterfly and started making a photobook. I know some people are good at scrapbooking, and that would probably be a good idea for this project, but I’m not good at it, and I wanted something very durable that could be made relatively quickly.
I made this book like a children’s story book, telling the story of our trip in the third person. I made the language simple and to the point. My boys love it. It is a story featuring them! They ask me to read it often, and they talk about it. Now, Joe even “reads” it to Matthew.
Whining? Losing patience? Yelling? Throwing a tantrum? Throwing toys? Just being downright mean?
Yes, my kids have done that. Even worse? I’ve done that too. I’m not proud if it. I pray for patience some days more than others. Being a mom can be very difficult.
So what can I do after I mess up? Apologize.
Some people think that apologizing to your children is showing them weakness and a lack of authority. The fact is, when you lose it, you’ve just modeled disrespect and a lack of control. Admitting that you were wrong about something to your child shows them that everyone makes mistakes, but that it is also important and appropriate to admit your mistakes.
I often see parents telling their children to apologize for something they’ve done. I don’t know how effective it is to make your child repeat the phrase, “I’m sorry” to another child or adult. Perhaps it will show them what is appropriate to do to make amends. I do know, however, modeling this behavior for your child makes them see it as the right thing to do. They feel the need for something to happen after they have been treated unfairly, and a parent apologizing fulfills this need.
Children are so much more forgiving that adults, and they don’t hold grudges. When I’ve already messed up, and lost it, at least I know I can take the opportunity to model to my children what comes next.
Tonight’s post is going to be a little different. It has really been a difficult couple of weeks for my family and I and I guess I need to decompress a bit. Perhaps I’ll begin with some background.
My sweet cousin was getting married last October. I was looking forward to seeing my grandparents and some aunts that live in Florida that I hadn’t seen for a while. At the end of last summer, however, I found out they wouldn’t be coming up. My grandparents, particularly my grandfather, did not feel up to the trip. A year earlier, I had seen my grandparents, and my grandfather actually seemed great despite the fact that he had cancer. He walked all around with us and didn’t seem to have trouble keeping up. I missed my family, and although we couldn’t afford to, we made the decision to visit in January. My husband also has family in Florida, so I didn’t feel quite as selfish, and we planned to spend time with both families.
We left at the end of January. I was anxious about going on the airplane. I do not have a fear of flying, I was nervous about having two little boys and everything that came with them. You see, I used to be one of those people that dreaded being seated next to children and basically would try to avoid them at all costs. You may have seen me before. I was one of those people that rolled my eyes when the waiter seated you and your children at the table right next to my husband and I.
So, I know how (some of) those people felt. I know how they felt as soon as we got to the airport. They were hoping we weren’t on their flight. The entire day of traveling, I was worried about their noise level, their smells, where their toys were and where their feet were. Things that my kids do that I usually just let go became prohibited.
It didn’t end there. Because we didn’t have access to a kitchen, we ate out for almost every meal. I worried about them being a nuisance there. Though most people were kind, I did see a few disapproving glances.
I worried that they would make too much noise in the hotel we stayed in, and I worried the people near us would complain and call the front desk. I worried they would make a mess and the maids would hate us and leave snakes under our blankets. I worried that the diapers in the trash would make them spit in our mouthwash. (Mike just couldn’t understand why I would thoroughly clean the hotel room every morning when the maids were going to do it anyhow).
Then, the worst thing happened. It made me think about how truly ridiculous my petty anxiety was. It made me forget to double wrap the diapers before we put them in the trash and made me forget to bring toys to play with while we waited for our food at the restaurants. My grandfather passed away. He passed away a day before we had planned to travel to our next hotel, to stay near him. I had no idea he was so sick. It shook me.
It was a difficult time and one that I wasn’t quite prepared for as a mom. Joe, my three year old, had known that my grandfather was sick before we left for the trip. He had seen me cry for him.
One night before we left for Florida, I went out to pick up some things for the trip. Mike was putting Joe to bed, when Joe asked him a question. Mike didn’t understand, but after asking him several times to repeat himself, without getting any more clarity, he decided to just say, “yes.” After that, Joe closed his eyes and folded his hands, and said, “Dear God, thank you for all you provide for us, and please help mom’s Grandpa to feel better soon. Amen.”
I took time for myself after I heard the news. Still, I wasn’t able to hide the tears from my boys. Joe asked why I was sad, and I gave him the most truthful, yet kid-friendly answer I could give. When we arrived at the hotel that was close to my grandparents, it was clear he didn’t understand. He asked if I was going to tell my Grandpa that we had been praying for him and that we wanted him to feel better.
It was a difficult time. I felt bad for my father and my aunts. It was difficult for them. I couldn’t imagine what my grandmother was going through. As much as I felt I wanted and needed my husband and children with me for support through the wake, funeral, and grave site service, I knew it would be too much for the boys to be there for the entire time. Also, I didn’t need a repeat of the anxiety I felt on the airplane. I decided to have my boys present with me during my father’s tribute to my grandfather. (They love listening to Grandpa – and I thought maybe he could use the support) My grandfather was a firefighter, and there was a section of the service that was outside with firetrucks and firefighters. It was going to be such a respectful, honorable portion of the funeral, that I thought would be good for the boys to see. My grandfather also looked forward to showing the boys his fire station, so I thought he might like them to be there for that part. I also knew it would be especially difficult for me, and having a shoulder there meant a great deal to me. Mike and I had the understanding that the moment one of the boys makes a peep, he was to remove them. He did a great job, and I am so thankful for him.
It was a difficult service. I don’t think I saw a dry eye. I also realized some people were not happy to see children there. It was not my intention to upset anyone in such a time of grief. I am not a perfect mother or person, in fact, I am far from it. I try to make good decisions, but I don’t always. I made the decision that I believed to be the right one at the time, and I am sincerely sorry if it wasn’t. I really wish I could make it up to those that I upset, but I can’t. Hopefully someday they can forgive me.
After the services, we really only had time to take a quick swim, pack up, and head home. I wish we had had more time to spend with the rest of my family. It was great to see them and I love them. Hopefully we will get down again soon. We are already in debt from this trip, what’s a little more debt?
The plan ride home wasn’t too bad. I think my worries were just replaced with a bit of indifference. Matthew attempted to make noise, but every time he did, we gave him another snack to keep him quiet. Eventually, he dozed off in Mike’s arms. It was very sweet. He woke up shortly before we landed. Poor Mike’s arms had fallen asleep, so I took Matthew. He fussed for a second, then vomited all of those extra snacks right onto me, covering my shirt and lap.
It was gross, but I think it was kind of representative of how he felt.
The trip was full of “don’ts.”
The trip was full of “ssshhhh’s.” I think both boys just wanted to let it all out.
When we opened the door to our house, it was late. Joe’s first words were, “I just want to play.”
“I know,” I said. He’s a little boy. He wanted to be a little boy again.
I wouldn’t have skipped this trip for anything. There were really fantastic parts and great things that we did. I know I painted a picture of a very bleak adventure, but there were many shining lights.
It felt good to be home though, and I could feel the boys’ relief.
It was almost as strong as my own.
*but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”