Archive for parenting

The Moments…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 15, 2014 by talesofanunfinishedmom

Each day I start by reviewing my Facebook feed. As shallow as that may sound, there is intention to it. Because in between all of the more mundane updates from colleagues, friends and family (which I thoroughly enjoy) there are nuggets. I find that almost every day I “need” a nugget to help me along with this parenting gig and thanks to the Internet, I can usually get it. This morning I got a big one. It made me tear up as a Mom shared her conflicted feelings about sending her daughter off to college and reminiscing about where all the time has gone. She went on to say what every single other parent says, IT GOES FAST. When you’re in it, it doesn’t always feel that way – in fact, it often doesn’t. The days can be long, exhausting and hard at times. But, when you begin to look back, you wonder where the years have gone, whether it be 3, 6 or the full 18. At some point you’re launching a young adult into the world and you’re just praying that you’ve taught them everything you wanted to and meant to and that they’ll be OK. Somehow you go from having a child attached to you to being grateful when they choose to spend a night home with you instead of being out with their friends. And, then, poof, just like that, your baby is gone.

If you wonder why I consider this a nugget (as opposed to getting myself upset early in the morning), it’s this.

Last evening before bed, Ellie was being a pill. For anyone who doesn’t quite use or remember that expression (I know I heard it a lot in my house growing up), let’s just say she was being a pain in the butt. She’s 7 – it’s going to happen. She’s learning and there’s so much more to learn. She’s also testing boundaries which is her job too. And, as her parents, it’s our job to reaffirm where those lines are so they’re not habitually crossed, to sit down with her and discuss how to be a good friend and asking her what she thinks that looks like as she navigates situations with her best friend. And then there’s just general lack of cooperation and a sassy attitude to boot. So, when the time comes finally for bed and she tells me that she wants me to snuggle with her in her bed, I have to tell her NO. Not only because it’s now past 9:00pm on a school night but also because I fear it sends a wrong message. I explained to her that she’s not being very kind and right now it would feel like snuggling with a porcupine and I didn’t want to get poked. She actually thought this was quite funny.

She went to bed and fell asleep in no time but the situation weighed on me because in that moment, I knew I just lost a chance to snuggle with my girl and you never know when that chance won’t come again. It’s a constant fine line to walk.

This morning I was up way too early thanks to a rare heat wave and a loud upstairs neighbor. I tried to return to slumber to no avail so I just laid there until I heard some creaking on the hardwood floors and turned to see my husband carrying in our 7-year-old half asleep. This has become our routine as of late as I’ve been home recovering from surgery and not having to rush to get up and ready for work. He drops her down next to me in all of her 52 pound 4-foot glory with her “blankie” and carefully selected stuffed animal and I pull her close to me to grab those 10 minutes of snuggle time before the always-rushed school morning routine begins.

Having just read about the Mom who is feeling nostalgic about sending her daughter off to college, I am so grateful for these moments with my first grader. I know they are fleeting. I study the profile of her nose and marvel at how it’s changed, I notice her top two permanent teeth that inch their way in bit by bit each day and look in awe at her long eyelashes that flap like a butterfly’s wings as she blinks away the bright light in the bedroom.  I take in the fragrance of her hair that still smells strong of fruity conditioner from a previous washing.

The frustration of the night before has gone, naturally, because that’s how parenting a kid is. Your love is so big, so unconditional, that even though you HAVE to discipline and teach them right from wrong, and they make you crazy and hurt your feelings, the love supercedes it all. I think about my “morning nugget” and I hold on tightly – so tightly. 

 

 

Saying goodbye to first grade…

Posted in Ellie with tags , on May 3, 2014 by talesofanunfinishedmom

I can hardly believe Ellie is edging up on the end of her first grade year. I know this is a common parental refrain but there’s a reason for it. Time flies. And, as your kids get older, I swear it goes even faster. It’s amazing to me that when I first wrote in this blog, it was the year 2009 and I had a toddler. And, now I’m almost welcoming a second grader into my life.  HOW CAN THIS BE?!

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It’s been an amazing year. Ellie moved into a new school and had to adjust to new kids and a much more rigorous academic environment. That was really hard for her initially but she never stopped working and trying. Although she still gets stomach aches over math, she never gives up. She can now read like a champ and is like a sponge when it comes to learning new words. It’s truly amazing to see the progress she’s made over the year. I couldn’t be more proud of her.

Her after school program has been terrific as well. She gets to swim and dance and be in an environment that is incredibly fun and loving. I feel great EVERY night I pick her up here and feel SO good that we made that really hard decision last summer to move her from one school to another.

When I think back to the first week of first grade and Ellie saying that she just “can’t do it” as she sobbed outside her new classroom door or the many many mornings where she clung a bit tightly to me and looked sad at the prospect of parting, it’s hard to believe and wonderful to watch how confidently she carries herself at her school now — and in general. I love walking to school together in the morning and holding hands. I’m so glad she still lets me do this. But, she’s definitely becoming more independent and snuggles come much more on her terms these days.

Seven is a really terrific age. Of course it comes with its challenges, but, mostly, I’ve really loved it. I guess every stage is terrific in its own way but seven is truly a winner.

I continue to embrace these moments with my beautiful daughter as I know they will continue to fly by and I don’t want to miss a thing.

 

The elephant in the…crib?

Posted in Mommy stuff with tags , , , on September 3, 2009 by talesofanunfinishedmom

There’s been a lot of talk about elephants as of late. No, we’re not watching a lot of Animal Planet nor have we been to the zoo. It started with a visit my two-year-old, Ellie,  made to this restaurant with her grandparents back in July.  It’s a cool place, for sure, but, when you’re a child who is somewhat sensitive to sudden loud noises, a 10 ft.-high mechanically-operated animal that spontaneously erupts into boisterous behavior, can be a bit daunting. There are several of them at this restaurant but the elephant is what really scared her.

We talked a LOT about the elephant after that visit.  Mostly, she just had a lot of questions about the elephant. She wanted to know where it was and what it was doing at all times. We gave her answers the best we could.

Then a weird thing happened…on our way back from the East Coast, where we’d spent a week visiting family, Ellie’s elephant awareness heightened. All of a sudden, elephants were the main topic of conversation and they were making appearances — beginning with our Jet blue flight.  Apparently, the elephant made it on to the plane somehow. There were a LOT of elephants on the flight–out the window, on the television screen, even in the row in front of us.

Upon our return home, she seemed OK for a few days and then with little warning, one night, guess who made an appearance in Ellie’s crib? Yes, indeed. Now there were elephants IN her crib. She was TERRIFIED.  Our perfect little sleeper who LOVED her crib was suddenly horribly afraid to be in her crib. And so began the sleeping with Mommy and Daddy either in our bed or on the couch until she was deep enough asleep for a transfer.

I figured we just needed to suck it up.  We haven’t had a problem putting Ellie down, basically since we sleep trained her. The jig was bound to be up eventually. Our turn had come to be the family that never sleeps – or that sleeps together.  And so when Ellie woke up at 2:15am crying, into our bed she came with all of her fidgety-ness. Soon after she fell back asleep, she’d assume her favorite horizontal sleeping position, pushing her Mommy and Daddy to the very end of the bed.  It was tough. But, we also didn’t want her feeling afraid.

A few days in, and weary from sleep deprivation, I asked for help. Being a full-time working Mom, I don’t have a handy network of Mom friends that I feel comfortable enough to call so I took advantage of the wonderful world of technology and posted a query in an online forum that immediately went out to a ton of Moms in my geographical area. Soon thereafter, I had 17 responses to sift through. The advice ranged from getting “elephant spray” and other magic potions to “rid the elephant” from my daughter’s crib, to, talking with my daughter about the elephant and finding out what scared her, to getting books on elephants and showing her how they have families too, and several suggestions that maybe it was time for the big girl bed. Some also posed that the elephant was really a metaphor for severe anxiety and finally, one Mom suggested that perhaps something bad had happened during our East Coast trip since the behavior intensified upon our return.

I so appreciated all of the responses and immediately took to using “elephant spray” and helping my toddler to address the elephant directly. With that said, I was also even more anxious considering that something terrible could have taken place on our family trip!

After another couple of terror-filled nights, desperation set in and I called my own Mom to see what counsel she could offer. My Mom has always been one to offer helpful advice but I hesitate to ask for it sometimes, especially if I’m feeling vulnerable, because, let’s face it, asking your Mom for advice, often turns into a golden opportunity for them to point out what you’re doing wrong.  I don’t even know if that’s intentional. Maybe they’re rusty from not being needed all the time or maybe it’s payback for never asking. Not sure. I just know that Moms can’t help themselves sometimes.

I explained to her the elephant situation and even that it started after she and my Dad took Ellie to the aforementioned restaurant. She sort of shrugged that off and immediately launched into her convincing analysis:

“The elephant is a metaphor. It’s not really about the elephant. It’s about her fears. If you think about it, you guys went away for the first time, leaving her for 5 days back in June, and then she started Preschool shortly thereafter. Then she went on the trip with you. It’s all too much for her! I also think she absolutely is ready for potty training and a big girl bed.”

Head explodes.

But then she goes on to offer a very helpful suggestion: ” If I were you, I would start asking her open-ended questions to try and get at the heart of what she is afraid of. ”

If it weren’t for that last bit of very good advice, I may have decided to turn in my parenting license right on the spot feeling like I had permanently injured my daughter with abandonement by going away and stunting her development by still having her in diapers.  Agreeing that this made a lot of sense, I decided that I was going to talk with my toddler, help her address her fears and then help her get through them. Yes, I could do this. I could ask questions.

And thus began the queries:

Me: “Ellie. I’d like to talk with you.” Ellie comes over. I continue. “What scares you?”

Ellie: “The elephant.”

Me: “Where do you see the elephant?”

Ellie: “With Nana and Papa.” She continues “The elephant no hurt you.”

Me: “No, honey. The elephant won’t hurt you.”

Ellie: “The elephant is sleeping.”

Me: “Yes, the elephant is sleeping.”  Of course I have no damn idea if the elephant is sleeping. It’s probably not, actually. It’s probably very much awake taunting other children. But, something told me that knowing this PROBABLY wouldn’t make her feel any better.

I then decided that we needed an “elephant action plan.” Something that would make her feel empowered to get rid of the elephant herself. We discussed that whenever she saw an elephant — and they seemed to turn up in the most unexpected places — that she would just tell the elephant to “Go away!”  This actually worked quite well – gave her a sense of authority. Whenever she said that she saw an elephant, I’d remind her of the “elephant action plan” and she’d say: “Elephant, go away!”  And then she’d turn to me and smile.  Yes, she was empowered!  This actually seemed to be working.

Nonetheless, the evening crib battle continued. And so did my questioning:

Me: “Ellie – what scares you?”

Ellie: “The elephant.”

Me:  “Where do you see an elephant?”

Ellie: “With Nana and Papa.”

Me: “Is school scary?”

Ellie: “No.”

Me: “Is Elmo scary?”

Ellie: “No. The elephant is scary.”

After several days of this line of questioning and putting the “elephant action plan” into effect and more sleepless nights on the couch, I decided that the real culprit WAS the scary elephant she had seen with Nana and Papa. Not some hidden trauma that we weren’t privy to. Just a simple mechanical elephant.

If you’re paying attention, you can probably see the irony in all of this.

In any case, feeling pretty certain that the “elephant action plan” was working, I decided that Mommy and Daddy needed to get control again as toddler was clearly not traumatized anymore and seemed to be hip to the notion that said elephant fear was definitely helping to keep her out of the crib.

And so the other night, we put her into the crib — protests and all — and guess what? After only a few minutes of crying she was sound asleep. The elephant jig was up and she knew it.

We haven’t talked too much about the elephant since. Oh, and she did use her potty for the first time this week as well. So, maybe Mom wasn’t all wrong.

Proud Mom

Posted in Mommy stuff with tags , , on May 26, 2009 by talesofanunfinishedmom

It’s hard to believe but soon my little girl will be two and a half. I love this age, but, then again, I’ve loved every stage since she blessed our lives with her presence.

From the very beginning, we’ve received many compliments on how beautiful and happy she is. Early on, it seemed clear to me that she was just born with an upbeat spirit and the beauty, well, she clearly hit the genetic jackpot. There was a LOT to choose from when you combined the two families — a lot of very different DNA — and she came out looking like a carefully designed specimen designed to make people smile and knock them dead with her beauty wherever she goes.

I recall being really hung up on one particular 3-D ultrasound picture that gave the illusion of my daughter looking frighteningly like one of my husband’s less attractive uncles (I know, I’m going to hell). I obsessed over this picture for months. I later realized, of course, that very few of us would look very good with our face smashed into a pillow which was basically her cozy position in the womb. Now I look at that picture and see nothing but cuteness and beauty–even with the smashed features.

But, even more than beauty, my daughter is the embodiment of joy. Wherever she goes, she makes people smile. It’s truly uncanny. I’ve seen her turn a distinct frown into an unsuspecting smile just by smiling and saying hello to someone.

This past weekend, we wandered into one of the boutiques in our neighborhood to look for a purse for me. It’s a quaint neighborhood spot and a pretty friendly Asian woman dressed in business attire immediately welcomed us into her store and gave us the lay of the land. She also said hello to my daughter and Ellie ate up the attention immediately. She began to talk with the shop owner, smiling, sharing her proudly rehearsed ABCs…the shop owner couldn’t get over it and just kept saying “She is so nice. So nice.”  She went on to talk about the kids that come in with their Moms that are always whining or crying. You could tell that Ellie was really making her day.

We ended up having to get home for Ellie’s nap before I could make a decision so we told the shop owner that maybe we’d be back later. I didn’t really think that we’d return but I also knew that I had fallen a bit in love with a certain purse and just might need to go back.

We all ended up walking back after nap time as my love for a certain purse grew in magnitude with each passing hour. The shop owner seemed genuinely happy to see Ellie again. She immediately addressed her by name and Ellie began to engage her once again. And, again, the shop owner just kept saying  “She’s so nice. So nice.”

So nice, in fact, that she threw in an extra 10% discount. We now call this the “Ellie discount.”

At that point, it dawned on me that maybe her father and I are doing OK by her. It’s SO hard to know if you’re doing the right thing for your children– instilling the right values, and manners.  Loving them is easy but teaching them how to be in the world is not so easy.  I forget that a big part of this is modeling for your children how to be in the world. I don’t think about this too often since I’m usually thinking about what to TEACH Ellie and not always about how I should be acting. But, I’m reminded that our children are watching all of the time.

So maybe, just this one time, I’ll take a little credit for raising a daughter that makes so many, so happy.

So nice.

So nice.