I’ve always been a lover of all things vintage and old. An old soul. A person who would rather receive a handmade card over any overpriced sentiment from Hallmark; a tattered book with notes written throughout over any digital version available to download; a blanket hand-quilted by my grandma over any soft plush found at Kohls; or an antique piece that’s been in the family for years over any gift found in store or online.
My husband would probably tell you that I’m his hardest person to ‘buy for’. I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate the occasional ‘new and fancy’ surprise. I do. In fact, I think it’s safe to say we all enjoy the occasional flowers, shiny jewelry, high-end fragrance, or upgrade to something that’s otherwise falling apart. All of those things are nice gifts… but I tend to be the person who expects more. Not more ‘stuff’, but rather, more thought. More consideration. More time. More love. More of those things that simply can’t be purchased with the swipe of a debit card. It’s not the designer brand or expensive price tag that impresses me. The key to my heart is those things that do, in fact, come from the heart.
Today I want to share a story. A story related to the beauty of giving things that come from the heart. A story of my five-year-old daughter who ran off the bus last week, full of excitement as she explained her need to bring valentines in for her upcoming class party. This was no surprise to me. In fact, like any parent of a school age child, I anticipated having to take her into town so that she could pick out some popular character covered cards to hand out to her friends.
“No mom, I don’t want to buy cards”, she explained, “I need to make them.”
‘Whoa… slow down girl’, I thought, ‘This would be a really big task if she truly spent the time making cards for her entire class and while there are few people who appreciate a thoughtful and meaningful gesture more than myself, I couldn’t help but to push for some clarification. I mean really? This could all be taken care with about ten bucks and a quick trip to target. Making valentines for 29 kids and 2 teachers seemed a little ambitious and over the top.
“Are you sure you want to make them? Maybe we could go to the store and just look through the aisles to see if there’s anything you might like to hand out?”
My daughter looked up at me with her big brown eyes. I could tell she was carefully thinking before giving me a response.
“Ok, mom… I’ll look.”
Great. Off to Target we went. We found the aisle full of candies and cards and after about 5 minutes of careful contemplation, my daughter placed a 35 pack of mini valentine Oreos in our cart. Perfect. Done. Another thing I can check off the list.
Fast forward to last night (two days before her classroom party)…
“Mom! I have to bring my valentines to school tomorrow! I still need to make my valentines!”
What? Cue confusion. I grabbed the box of pre-packaged Oreos that was sitting on top of the refrigerator and reminded her that we already had ‘valentines’ ready to put in her backpack.
“No mom. Those are the treats I’ll hand out. Remember? I told you I wanted to make my valentines…”
“Are you sure you want to make valentines too?”, I carefully asked, “You’ll have to make over 30 cards and that’s going to take a lot of time to complete AND they’re due tomorrow so if you really want to do that, you’re going to have to finish them all tonight…”
She furrowed her sweet brown eyes and looked at me as if I was speaking a different language.
“MOM. I told you I wanted to make them. I want to make my valentines.”
Alright… Point taken. We went to the craft closet and gathered some paper, stickers, hearts, and markers. She sat down and I watched her as she worked with her heart. Every once in awhile, she wrote a letter backwards or ran out of space mid-word and when that happened, she got up, threw the half-complete valentine away, and started over. She worked hard. She didn’t care how long it took her. She didn’t care that she was missing out on playing barbies with her sister or dinosaurs with her brother. She had already spent the entire day at school and she didn’t seem to even consider taking a break to relax from her busy day. This girl was on a mission. She had nothing to prove and nothing to gain. She simply wanted to do what she had been telling me along. She wanted to make her own valentines.
And that she did.
29 students. 2 teachers. 2 ½ hours of ‘crafting’. 31 cards total.
You know, I don’t know what the kids will do with their handmade cards. I imagine they’ll love their Oreos. I’m sure they’ll get tons of candies and cards. Maybe they’ll keep my daughter’s work or maybe they’ll toss it aside… I don’t know.
But here’s what I do know… I LOVE those valentines. I love that she held her ground and insisted on this vision for some good old fashioned handmade cards. You know sometimes us parents get too caught up in efficiency and completion. We get caught up with finishing tasks and checking things off our list. We get caught up in trying to get everything done and we forget to listen. We become dismissive and distracted. We forget that some things may take longer, take more thought, take more time… and that’s ok. In fact, sometimes, most times, those are the things that turn out the greatest. The things that mean the most and the things we remember the best.
Happy Valentine’s day friends.
May you all get a handmade valentine or two…
I’ve always been the type of person that rolls their eyes in response to the standard, “What’s your New Year’s resolution?” question. I can’t help it. In fact, if I’m being completely honest with you, you can probably expect that eye roll to be accompanied with a heavy sigh and gritted teeth as well. I’ve never really made resolutions. (Gasp! I know! Don’t judge me yet!) Listen… I’m a concrete, black and white, type of thinker and if I want to make a change in my life, I don’t need the beginning of a calendar year to jumpstart something new. I’ve never really understood these dramatic declarations of mastering new hobbies, quitting bad habits, losing weight, spending less, or exercising more, all because of a simple numeric change in our calendar year. If you want to set a goal, make an improvement, or make a change… then do it. You are in change of you! You call the shots! Not a calendar.
With that said, something in my mindset has shifted over the past few days… For some unknown reason, I can’t stop thinking about this whole new year’s ‘question’ that has become so popular and prevalent in our society. What is your new year’s resolution? Is there something you need to change? Is there something in your life that you could improve? Do you have unmet aspirations perhaps not yet realized? What can you do to better yourself?
When I think about those questions, my concrete mindset shifts to taking a step back and defining who I am… I need to declare that before I can resolve to change, aspire, or suggest who I want to better become.
So who am I?
I am a mother.
I am a stay-at-home parent.
I am the world to three sweet toddler tornadoes who demand every ounce of my being throughout every single day.
I am so many things to so many other people but as I reflect on the direct definition of who I am… I consider my defining trait without any hesitation to be MOM.
So who or what can I improve or better aspire to become? Well… perhaps prioritizing motherhood to such a high level is unfair. Perhaps it’s unfair to my husband. Perhaps it’s unfair to my friends and family. Perhaps it’s unfair to MY SELF.
If we allow motherhood to consume and exhaust all of who we are, then what is left for everyone and everything else? When was the last time you spent quality time with your spouse? On any given night, do you finally get the kids to bed and resolve to watching tv in silence and/or going to bed yourself without even asking how your husband’s day was? What about your friends and family? When was the last time you called your sibling or went out to dinner with your friends? Most importantly… can you recall the last time you did something solely for yourself? Have you recently made any time for that thing you’ve always said you wanted to do? For me, it’s to run a marathon. Read more books. Even that cliché goal of ‘exercising more’… it’s something I don’t make time for because it’s never my priority.
My priority is my family and there is nothing wrong with pouring my heart and soul into my children. They are, in fact, my world! However, I find myself overlooking and sometimes forgetting who came before them. It’s a beautiful thing to be so fiercely wanted and adored by the very beings we brought into this crazy world… But those sweet little people can leave me pouring from an empty cup. They love with such fierce intensity, demanding all my affection, attention, and time, that by the end of day, I have nothing left for all those other things I strive to be.
My children are my WORLD but my world needs balance.
So this year I’m making a resolution.
A commitment to finding balance. I want to restructure my priorities and improve upon all those other things that define who I am. I want to give myself permission to call myself more than a mother, NOT because I don’t love what motherhood has given me… Motherhood consumes me, in the most exhausting and rejuvenating way possible! It is the hardest thing I have EVER loved! It is a privilege and no doubt, my greatest accomplishment. But I want to accomplish more. My family and friends need more. I deserve more.
So here’s to a fresh start, a new beginning, and a year of calling myself not only a devoted mother, but also, a loving wife, a consistent reader, and a committed runner.
Happy New Year, friends!
Christmas morning memories… What do yours looks like?
I remember waking up, full of excitement and anticipation, truly feeling and believing in the magic of Christmas. I remember my siblings and I gathering together in the hallway, anxiously knocking on our parent’s door, asking if we could ‘wake up’. My parents were always such good sports, never telling us to go back to bed or that we needed to wait a little longer. I remember my dad always turning on Christmas music before we could start sorting and opening gifts. I remember my mom filling the kitchen with the most wonderful smells of homemade biscuits and gravy. I remember playing games and spending time together as a family. I remember laughing and smiling and doing all things happy. These are my Christmas memories.
You know what I have no memories of? The gifts.
Sure, I remember there always being plenty of shiny wrapped presents under the tree, but what were those gifts I so eagerly opened? I cannot recall. I imagine there were dresses and dolls, Barbies and beanie babies, and plenty of games and crafts… but those details are not part of my memories.
Tonight, I’m writing about gifts because it’s the week before Christmas and I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit, ‘making my list and checking it twice’. I’ve thought through all the details of ensuring the same dollar amount has been spent on each child as well as that each child has the same number of gifts. As a parent and one of ‘Santa’s special helpers’, it’s important to me that my children feel the love and magic on Christmas morning and wake up with reassurance that they’ve earned a solid spot on Santa’s ‘nice list’.
With that said… let’s talk a little more about the ‘stuff’.
Kids want so much stuff. Today, it’s a hard to find magic set. Yesterday, it was an oversized stuffed animal. Last week, it was a simple ballerina Barbie. It’s ever-changing and it’s exhausting. Can we all just agree that kids have no idea what they want and whatever it is they think they want; it will be replaced with something different tomorrow. When we first received the Target toy catalog in the mail, my kids literally circled almost every single toy shown. Their response to, ‘What do you want for Christmas?’ was based entirely off of the colorful ads, loud commercials, and targeted advertisements they had seen or heard that day. Their list for Santa was fueled by the novelty of something new and different rather than genuine wants or needs. This was not for lack of appreciation or gratitude, but simply the human nature of a child.
Do you find yourself stressing about your child’s Christmas list? Do you worry whether your children will feel the magic on Christmas morning? I’m guilty of both of those things but I’m also here to gracefully remind you (and my inner self) that tangible gifts are not what creates lasting Christmas memories.
Let go of the Christmas stress. Give yourself permission to feel confident in the presents wrapped under the tree. The kids are going to be happy. I’m sure you’ve done good. In fact, all that stress you’re feeling related to perfecting your Christmas shopping will likely go unnoticed on Christmas morning.
Your children already have everything they need. Their memories of Christmas will be those that can’t be bought. They won’t remember the fancy toys but they will remember the moments. The silly, imperfect, happy moments. All that other ‘stuff’ is just extra.
Merry Christmas, dear friends, to you and your families!
A few weeks ago, my 5-year-old daughter came running off the school bus, beaming as she explained to me through excited grins and mile-a-minute speech that it was finally her turn to be ‘student of the week’. Apparently, this is a REALLY big deal for a kindergartener… as in, it pretty much equates to becoming vice president of the classroom, second in line to the teacher, for an entire week.
“MOM! I get to be line leader and teacher’s helper and first for everything! I get to pick the story and I even get to sit on a special cushion during group time!”
As she continued talking about all the things that went along with this prestigious role, she pulled a large poster out of her backpack. She explained that this was to be completed at home and returned to school so that she could present it to her class at the end of the week. She then grabbed some markers and got right to work.
She worked for not one… not two… but THREE evenings in a row. This was a special project and it was evident that it meant a lot to her. She was meticulous. She took her time. Her answers were well thought out and her coloring was done with precision. This was a poster that exemplified who she was and she was taking it very seriously.
Sitting in the kitchen with me on that 3rd night, she worked quietly while I made dinner. Both her younger brother and sister were playing in the living room and every once in awhile, she become distracted and would walk away from the table, curious as to what her siblings were doing. I warned her that if she wanted to go play with them, she needed to put her work away (nothing can be trusted in this house of chaos guys… if you’ve been following me long, you’re well aware that my darling children are what I like to call, ‘toddler tornadoes’).
“No, mom. I don’t want to play with them. I want to finish my poster.”
A few minutes passed by… The kitchen was quiet, with the exception of some boiling water and a working mother trying to finish dinner. As I turned around to grab a wooden spoon from the kitchen drawer, I came face to face with the inevitable. My jaw dropped to the floor. While I expected to see my daughter coloring quietly at the table, I was instead met with the face of my 2-year-old son, guilty as ever, holding a red marker in his mischievous little hand. It was him who had been sitting quietly in the seat that was previously occupied by my hard-working daughter. He was hard-working now too… except his work involved scribbling all over his sister’s prized poster.
I gasped. I yelled. I lost all color in my face and felt my stomach sink to the floor. I was mad at my son for coloring something that wasn’t his work. I was mad at my daughter for doing the very thing I had warned her not to do. I was mad at myself for not being more aware of what was going on. I was also sad…. There was no doubt in my mind that my sweet girl was going to be devastated when she saw what her brother had done.
“AVALYNN!! Baby… I told you to put your work away. I told you not to leave it out. I warned you that something might happen if you didn’t pay attention… I’m really sorry… but your brother has colored on your poster….”
I showed her the scribbles. I watched her closely examine those thick, burgundy lines that could not be erased. I said nothing else and she said nothing back. In fact, she didn’t react at all. She simply studied the scribbles on this piece of paper that had consumed so many hours of her time. I was sad for her. I was frustrated for her. I was frustrated with the entire situation.
Together, we stood quietly in the kitchen, looking at the ruined poster. The air was thick (partially from that pot of water that was still boiling) but also from both of us trying our best to contain our emotions. I swallowed hard, preparing myself for the chaos I knew was about to ensue… To my surprise, the sweetest, softest, most timid and apprehensive voice responded…
“It’s ok mom…. It’s ok… It kinda looks like a butterfly? Do you see? I think I can fix it…..”
She took the paper from my hands and sat back down at the table.
WHAT. WAS. HAPPENING??????????????
You guys… I expected a meltdown and instead, was met with simple grace. This 5-year-old child transformed what I saw as a ruined mess into a beautiful mistake. She wasn’t mad. She didn’t blame her brother. She didn’t try to defend her reasons for walking away. This sweet girl simply took a deep breath, evaluated reality, set her emotions aside, and found a solution ALL. ON. HER. OWN. At 5-years of age, she handled this ‘crisis’ with more grace and forgiveness than her own mother. She colored the ‘wings’, added a ‘body’, and within minutes, had drawn a butterfly that most probably would perceive as an intentional illustration to the answer regarding her ‘favorite animal’.
You know, we all have moments that leave us angry and frustrated. Moments we perceive as a crisis. While we don’t intentionally point blame or react irrationally, doing so is much easier than swallowing our pride and admitting our faults. It’s human instinct to voice our defense… In fact, avoiding accountability is part of our humanity.
Tonight, my 5-year old daughter defied that very intuitive response that many adults struggle to contain themselves.
When moments of crisis emerge… look for the butterfly. It’s easy to forget that we have the power to turn a mistake into something beautiful, something far better, by simply replacing impulsive frustration with grace.
As parents, we strive to say and do the right things, and teach the right lessons in all the right moments… Tonight, my daughter reminded me that parents are also human and that we’re still learning ourselves… Sometimes, our most invaluable lessons come from the raw moments with our very own naïve children.
Tonight was a proud moment for me and a big moment for my daughter.
My hope is that by sharing this story, you too will be reminded to look for the butterflies in your own moments of chaos and crisis.
Bedtime stories are pretty sacred in our household. They are a time in which our kids can settle down; they force some of the best snuggles as a result of a growing family on a crowded couch; and they lead to some of the most rare moments in which you’ll found our life of controlled chaos in a relatively calm and quiet state.
With December being only a few days away, I’m super excited to share with you my most recent project. I can’t take full credit for the idea, as there are tons of creative and inspiring social media accounts that you can find on Pinterest or Instagram who have presented different ways to do the very thing that I did… They were a source of inspiration for me and my hope is that I can be a source of inspiration for you!
CHRISTMAS BOOK ADVENT CALENDAR
The premise of this project is to collect 25 different books as a means for kids to count the days of Advent in anticipation of Christmas. Now, I’ve never actually used an advent calendar with my kids but I’m somewhat familiar with the various methods and traditions available… I’ve seen wooden Christmas trees at Target with 25 different nooks to place a small toy or piece of candy. I’ve seen adorable puzzles and festive wall hangings. I’ve seen meticulously crafted, handmade boxes and houses on Etsy. What I had NOT seen was the idea of creating an advent calendar with books. When a friend recently shared this idea with me, I was immediately on board. If you know me well, you know that I am a huge advocate for early literacy. I also adore Christmas with all my heart and I’m a total sucker for traditions. I also love any opportunity to snuggle with my family and read a good book… especially when that good book is centered on lessons regarding the true meaning of Christmas for a month straight!
This is such a simple, yet meaningful and memorable way to count down the days until Christmas and the anniversary of Christ’s birth. You don’t need to spend tons of money at a bookstore or on Amazon to complete this project. You guys, I did this in two days for less than $15. TOTAL.
I started by checking out my local Goodwill stores. Most Goodwills sell children’s book for $1/each, with some even running 50% off specials- usually on Friday. If you’re willing to dig a little, you can find some serious bargains! In fact, I found half of my Christmas collection on my very first visit!
My next stop was Once Upon A Child. If you are a parent and have never been to this store, you should probably just stop reading my post and go google the nearest location (Come back to me when you’re done)! Once Upon A Child is an upscale second-hand children’s store that buys and sells gently used books, toys, games, shoes, clothes, coats, etc. at a fraction of the cost. The price for their books is usually .50/paperback and $1/hardcover. My local store always offers books at BOGO (buy one/get one 50% off) so I was literally able to buy some gently used/brand new books for prices cheaper than what I would pay at Goodwill!
Now listen, if you don’t have the time to go though bins and shelves and your hands can only handle so much hand sanitizer… then here’s another option: Visit your closest library! You can check out 25 Christmas books that are probably already sorted and categorized on a shelf that’s easily accessible. Boom. Twenty-five books in a single trip that will likely take you less than 10 minutes and all you have to do is make sure you renew/return them so that you don’t incur late fees.
Once you have your books, simply lay them out in order you want them read and wrap them up- I did this today while my kids napped! Starting December 1st, the kids will get to unwrap a surprise book each night and snuggle up on the couch to listen to a Christmas story! Initially, I had hoped to find most of my books more centered around the birth of Jesus and the story of the nativity but for obvious reasons, I couldn’t be too choosy as my selection was limited… Given that this project was put together in only a few days though, I think I ended up with a nice mix of books that will teach some good lessons, make the kids laugh, and help them learn more about the true meaning of Christmas.
My kids are SO excited about this new basket of goodies and are anxiously awaiting permission to start unwrapping and reading throughout the rest of the Christmas season! I hope I’ve inspired you to think about some fun and simple ways in which you can help your kids understand the meaning of Christmas too… and HEY! It’s not too late! The simplicity of this project allows you to control when it begins! Maybe your advent calendar starts the second week of December or maybe you find only enough books to count down the ’12 days until Christmas’! It doesn’t matter! Your kids will love it, no matter how you do it or when you start it! Best of luck!
I was recently crowned ‘world’s meanest mom’ by my two-year-old son because I refused to let him throw his milk cup across the living room floor. Seriously. The simple command of “No Harrison.” was all it took to transform that sweet, smiling boy into a snotty, tear stained, irrational, emotional mess simply because I wouldn’t let him make a mess with his milk. Notice the irony?
Toddlers are crazy. You know, I frequently refer to my own kids as ‘toddler tornadoes’ and obviously, I use that phrase with the utmost love and sincerity, but it really is the most defining definition for this developmental stage of crazy. This is a stage defined by exhausting, impulsive, and unpredictable storm clouds of emotion. Moments of happiness one minute and pure rage the next. The only way to haphazardly control the chaos is by trying to simultaneously assume the roles of detective (investigating the problem), counselor (calming the child), and principal (managing the behavior) and even then… I’m still often left wide-eyed and speechless amongst a storm of madness. My kids make me crazy. I bet your kids make you crazy too. We love them. I’m sure they’re all great… but I can say with raw certainty that they’re also greatly capable of turning super patient moms into super impatient “momsters” … Yep. I’ll admit it. Sometimes, even though I try my best to have the patience of a saint, I crack.
Crack. Breakdown. Reach a breaking point leaving me with feelings of defeat and guilty of moments I’m less than proud of… Maybe I yelled too loudly, spoke too harshly, or responded unfairly. Maybe I slammed the door. Maybe I overreacted. Listen… I would bet that Mr. Rogers (my idea of the quintessential parent) even overreacted with his kids sometimes (although I have to be honest, that one is hard to imagine). It’s basic humanity. We aren’t perfect. In fact, our imperfection is what makes us human. Recently I had one of those cracking moments in which I stormed down the hallway and scolded my kids for fighting and throwing a toy and in the heat of the moment, I snatched the toy out of my daughter’s hand and threw it across the room. You know what happened next? My three-year-old daughter called me out for throwing…. Touché, dear child.
Newsflash #1. Parents aren’t perfect and it’s an unfair expectation for us to confront meltdowns and tantrums “Mr. Rogers style” 100% of the time.
Newsflash #2. Toddlers aren’t perfect and it’s an unfair expectation for them to understand and control their own meltdowns and tantrums 100% of the time.
I’m going to go ahead and make a blanket statement that might make you a little uncomfortable but here we go anyway- All parents are guilty of setting unfair expectations and/or reacting unfairly. We don’t mean to do it. We don’t do it all the time. but we do it. I do it. You do it. Your parents did it. We all do it.
Here’s an example:
Harrison and Sophia are sitting together, each playing with a basket of blocks. Harrison is crashing toy cars into his blocks while Sophia is carefully building a castle with hers. As Sophia meticulously places a block on top of her growing tower, Harrison suddenly throws a block, striking both Sophia’s castle and her face. Sophia cries out in frustration and anger and throws a block back at Harrison, also striking him in the face. Both kids melt down.
How do you respond? Are both kids in trouble? Are the blocks confiscated and both children punished? In the heat of the moment, are you yelling at everyone simply to hear your own voice over the chaos?
It was wrong for Sophia to throw the block at Harrison, but she was frustrated and her basic instinct was to physically react. It was wrong for Harrison to knock down the tower but his intent wasn’t to hurt anyone or anything. He was simply playing.
In times of conflict and consolation, have you ever found yourself telling your child, “You need to act your age! Oh, you’re fine! That didn’t hurt that bad! You should know better! Why are you crying? Be a big boy/girl!”
In times of chaos, in times of tantrums, in times of failed encouragement… I have said all of those things. And while my intentions were always sincere… What if somebody said those things to you? Labeled your feelings or downplayed your emotions. No matter your age, whether you’re 2 years old or 62 years old, nobody wants to be told to calm down. (Emotional reactions are involuntary and sometimes we just need to be angry or we just need to cry.) Nobody wants to be told to act their age or to be a big boy/girl. (This is condescending.) Nobody wants to be told it didn’t hurt that bad. (Are you the one with the battle wound?) People don’t purposefully behave ‘badly’ or intentionally choose to have feelings of frustration or anger. Besides, if you’re feeling frustrated or angry, wouldn’t you want someone to validate you, rather than dismiss you?
It is NOT FAIR to expect our kids to cope like mature, rationale adults all the time. Yes, we need to set firm guidelines and well-defined rules… Yes, we want our children to behave. BUT it is also critically important to remember that these young kiddos are still, very slowly, developing an understanding of who they are, what they can do, and where they stand in this great big world of rules, limits, and expectations. In times of frustration or anger or fear, we have to remember that a childs basic human instinct may be to meltdown. Falling apart may sometimes be inevitable… and it’s not fair to act disappointed or appalled when it happens.
Today, I’m writing to remind you that these crying, raging tornadoes often have no idea why they’re reacting the way they are. I need that reminder sometimes… Do you? Our kids don’t want to be ‘bad’. They aren’t trying to drive us crazy. It’s not intentional. It’s not personal. It doesn’t mean they aren’t disciplined.
Think about this: We live in a society inundated with professionals holding advanced degrees whose entire careers are driven toward helping others understand their own thoughts and behavior. Adults have therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, sociologists, counselors… they have peers, co-workers, friends, siblings and countless others in which they can talk with, vent to, and ask for advice…
Toddlers don’t know how to handle their feelings. They can’t go for a run or out for a drive to calm down. It’s very unlikely that your 3-year-old daughter is going to walk up to you and say… “Hey mom, I’m feeling pretty frustrated today. Can we sit down and talk about it?”.
As adults, we have all these people and all these coping mechanisms… You know what toddlers have?
(Here’s the really cool part guys…)
Your children have you. Their parents. Their familiar voice they learned to love before they were even brought into this world of chaos. You, dear parent, have the privilege of being their people. Their voice of reason. Their safehouse. Their source of unconditional love…and when your children are at their worst, they really need you at your best.
The next time your kiddo falls apart, acts out in public, shuts down, or turns into a tornado all because you took away the blocks or won’t let the milk cup be thrown across the living room floor…. I want you to take a deep breath. Express the necessary limits and expectations. Discuss appropriate consequences. Review the family rules.
Remember that the way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice. We are leading by example and setting the stage for how one should problem solve and handle confrontations with others. Please do not argue that parenting with calm and understanding patience means you’re a “soft parent”. I firmly believe it is quite the contrary. We’re not raising ‘snowflakes’. We’re raising competent adults. Lowering our expectations and gracefully meeting our children where they ARE (emotionally, cognitively, developmentally) will open the potential to teach many more lessons and retain many more victories.
Discipline with heart, parent with patience, and calmly guide your child through their storm. By doing this, you are teaching lessons and modeling resolutions that go far beyond their current meltdown.
Today was a rough one. I woke up with a headache. I burnt my espresso. I’m fighting some killer cramps. I received some very sad news about a dear friend of mine. I’m all kinds of emotional. And my kids have needed me all day. Like really needed me… as in, demanded every single ounce of my being. I know… they’re toddlers. That’s what they do. They’re kissable, huggable, lovable balls of exhaustion.
Mid-morning I tried to give myself a reset. I thought to myself, Ok, I’m going to set the kids up for success… put their drinks in hand, give them a bowl of snacks, turn on the tv, and scatter toys all over the living room floor.
“Give me one Daniel tiger episode guys” (this is the only reference of time they understand). “I need to take a hot bath and then I promise we’ll do something fun.”
No sooner than I had ran my hot water and eased myself into the tub, both toddlers were barreling into the bathroom. “Mommy!” “I need more water”, “My cheerios are all gone”, “Harrison took my blanky!”, “Sissy hit me!”, “MOM!”
I pulled my knees up to my chest, positioning myself into a fetal position in an attempt to preserve any amount of modesty motherhood has left me. I tried to control the chaos. I tried to tame the tantrums. I tried to persuade them to go watch cartoons but they were no longer interested in Daniel Tiger. In fact, they had seen that episode already. Psshhh… They didn’t care. They wanted to take a bath. They wanted to splash. They wanted to play with their mom. I spent the next 10 minutes trying my hardest to fight for the opportunity to hold onto my bath. All I really did in that amount of time was yell at my kids to stop putting their hands in the water and splashing me. At one point, my two-year-old literally almost fell into the tub.
So I gave up.
My water was cold anyway. I grabbed my towel and stepped out and as you would expect, both kids began pulling off their pants. “My turn!”, “Tubby Time!”, “Can we have bubbles!?”
While I dried off, they climbed in. In a matter of seconds they had turned the bathroom into a splash pad. I tried to relax. I tried not to be bitter. Or negative. Or begrudge their innocent play. At least they were confined to a given space long enough for me to sit in one spot for more than a few minutes, even if that meant sitting half naked on the toilet seat as I watched them and made sure they didn’t drown.
Once we finally all made it out of the bathroom and got ourselves dressed for the day, I told the kids that we were going to run into town and pick up some groceries. Honestly, I needed to get out of the house. We all needed to get out of the house. My kids were full of happy energy, I was on EMPTY, and it wasn’t even noon.
Would you believe that even grocery shopping was a disaster? We hadn’t been pushing the cart around the store for more than 5 minutes before I had lost one of my son’s shoes. Minutes later, I dropped a glass jar of marinara sauce. Glass and sauce splattered everywhere… all over my boots, my daughter’s shoes, our cart, the aisle, everywhere. We were a disaster. I can’t even make this stuff up.
I feel like I’m complaining. Like I’m a super negative and in one of those moods where I need to turn off my phone, stay away from people, and lock myself in my bedroom… (the irony of that statement is that I am in fact, finally sitting in my bedroom with my door locked as I hide from the chaos and try to type my stress away)… I suppose I should be thankful for my ‘knight in shining armor’ of a husband who recognized, for everyone’s sake and sanity, that mommy needed to go sit in her room for awhile…
Here’s the thing. MOMS. I feel you. I feel you on a seriously personal level tonight. Social media is so inundated with pretty pictures and happy moments and I LOVE looking at those beautiful happy shots, but I’m also here to tell you that behind those pictures are real people. Tired people. Emotional people. Exhausted people. Good people. But real people. People don’t naturally share the angry, messy, tiring, crazy chaos. But you better believe it’s there. We’re all human…
Tonight isn’t about being witty or funny. I don’t have an inspiring message or ‘lesson learned’ to share. Right now, I’m the mom who is hiding from her family. I can hear my husband tackling dinner and taming tantrums and doing his best to keep the kids happy and calm and quiet. Tonight, I’m just sharing a moment. A very raw and very real day of ‘momming’ (Can I make that a verb?). Maybe I’m trying to offer you some validation. Perhaps I’m looking for some reassurance and validation myself… In all honesty, this is probably my mind and body keeping myself busy in order to divert an emotional breakdown. Today has just been one of those days. Those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. A day of one thing after another going the opposite of how it was planned. A day of a whole bunch of hard moments. A day of doing EVERYTHING in my power to keep from screaming, or crying, or both… and I haven’t even mentioned the overwhelming guilt that comes after the roller coaster of a bad day… You know what I’m talking about… Guilt for yelling. Guilt for fatigue. Guilt for being boring, for not doing enough, not giving enough. Guilt for wanting a break from the people I love and care about the most.
Moms. We all have those days. Momming is HARD. Tomorrow will be better. I’ll be less emotional next week. I promise my next post will be witty and light. But tonight… whew… tonight is about some heavy, UNcontrolled chaos. You’ve been there too, right?
“Kids! I have a surprise!”, I yell as my kids come running into the kitchen to find a table filled with paints, brushes, pumpkins, old t-shirts and a momma with a vision to construct some cute little painted pumpkin faces with her toddlers.
15 minutes later….
You know what I got? A mess.
You know what I didn’t get? Those planned ‘cute little painted pumpkin faced crafts’.
It’s fine. You guys, my kids weren’t interested in the pumpkins. They didn’t care about a meticulously designed pumpkin face. They wanted to make a mess. They wanted to create and imagine. They wanted to channel their inner Bob Ross and let their paintbrush move wherever and however they chose, with no regard to instructions, plans, or directions… and that’s ok.
Today’s blog post isn’t a long one, but it’s written as a reminder to all the parents who thrive on order and instructions, schedules and planned activities. I’m totally one of those parents. My type A personality yearns for organization, a clean house, and a darn good planner, but I live in chaos remember? Controlled messy chaos… and if you have young kids (whether they’re yours, your grandkids, whoever), I imagine you can relate.
Toddlers are crazy, you know? They don’t care about sitting still. They don’t want to follow step-by-step instructions. They aren’t concerned about making pretty pinterest-worthy crafts. Sometimes, we just need the reminder to let our little kids be little kids; the reminder to follow their lead, despite our planned expectations; and the reminder to let them be creative and imaginative, even though we know a mess may likely follow. There’s a time and place for teaching lessons, following instructions, sitting quietly, and maintaining order…but let us remember the importance of creating a time and place for a little controlled chaos too.
…like painting beyond the pumpkin, because the un-planned craft will allow for more freedom, creativity, and originality anyway.
… or mixing playdough colors, because play-doh is cheap and it might even lead to a lesson on creating primary and secondary colors.
… or jumping in the mud, because the washing machine will probably take care of the dirty clothes.
… or going beyond the sidewalk and coloring the trees or play house with chalk, because the hose or the rain will wash it off later.
My point? Kids are only kids for a short while. Toddlers aren’t wired to ALWAYS sit still, follow instructions, take turns, keep quiet, or stay clean.
They need movement. They need messy. They need creativity. They need the freedom to explore the world with every part of their being.
Happy crafting, friends. Here’s to more ‘pinterest-worthy’ fails and creative messy chaos!
Being a parent means failing every day. It’s a role defined by trying your best and giving your all while simultaneously fighting off relentless feelings of worry, fear, criticism, and self-doubt. Just when we think we’ve done the right thing and made the right decision, motherhood has this way of sneaking in and knocking us straight to the ground. Today was no exception, in fact, I’m pretty sure I’m still metaphorically sore and swollen from the strike I received this morning.
Let me tell you about this playground, located about 5 minutes from our house. My kids and I go there often. It’s always fun, never too busy, and close to home. It’s perfect… with the exception of this slide:
We have a rule about this slide. Since our very first visit, it has been off-limits. It’s too old, too high, and literally every parent’s worst nightmare. Every time we go to this park, my kids ask about the slide- “Please mom!”, “Can we go down the slide!?” “We’ll be careful!”
I don’t even pause to pretend I’m thinking about it. It’s not safe. You could fall. You could get hurt. The answer is always no.
Well, today, we decided to spend the morning at the park. As I pulled up to the playground, I noticed that we had the entire place to ourselves. The weather was beautiful. My kids were having fun. We swung on the swings, twirled on the merry-go-round, played on the monkey bars, and crawled through the tunnel. Everything about the day was going smoothly. After about 20 minutes, my 3-year-old asked the inevitable question, “Mommy, can we go down the slide?”
I looked at her pleading, confident eyes. She’s such a strong girl, a ball of energy, this one… “Sweet girl… I’m afraid you’ll get hurt.”.
“But mom! I can do it! PLLLLEEEASSSSEEEE!”
What’s a mother to do? We can’t shield them in our arms forever (although if it was socially acceptable to wrap my kids in bubble wrap, I totally would). Every ounce of my mother’s intuition told me to tell her, “NO”.
But today I said yes.
I said yes because I want my children to be unafraid, to radiate confidence, to believe in themselves, and experience new things… While I would never knowingly put my kids in danger, something was pulling at me today to let them try. If I forever told them NO, wouldn’t they eventually stop asking? Then what? What does that teach them? What if they lost their self-confidence, their spark? I can’t cover them in bubble wrap forever, remember?
I walked both her and my two-year-old son over to the slide. Before letting them go, we had a talk. We discussed the importance of holding onto the handlebar when walking up the steps. We talked about sitting down and keeping our bottoms on the slide. We talked about the importance of keeping our legs together and our feet straight out in front of us so that our bodies would glide down the slide smoothly. We talked about taking turns and being safe.
With my ‘mom worry’ in serious overdrive, I finally let them go. As one would expect, both kids went running toward the steps before I even had a chance to think about changing my mind. They proudly reached the top, carefully sat down, and flashed me their super happy, confident toddler smiles. I was so nervous for them and so anxious for me, but I was also proud. Proud of my two little kiddos who were doing everything right. They had listened carefully to my instructions and were taking turns going up and down that slide without any hesitation. Honestly, I felt proud of myself. ‘See momma?’, I thought, ‘they’re doing just fine. Sometimes you just have to loosen the reins, (say a little prayer), and relax’.
You know what happened next?
My two-year-old fell from the top of the slide.
Right there, as I stood proud of my decision to give them an opportunity to do something they’ve never done, allowing them to be brave, allowing myself to be brave… my worst fear became reality. I watched my two-year-old son lean forward, somersault into the air, and fall to the ground. I’m not sure who screamed loudest- my daughter, myself, or my son.
First of all, I’m happy to report that he’s fine. The fall did not warrant a trip to the ER. Luckily, the ground was soft thanks to mulch covered mud from the past two days of rainy weather. A few minutes of cuddles, kisses, and fruit snacks was all the medical attention he needed before he was ready to get back to the playground… (Well, everything on the playground except for that terrible slide, which I was now ready to start tearing down myself). But here’s my point- Even when we’re trying our best to make the right decision for our children, we’re going to sometimes fail. We ALL fail. Some people just do a better job of hiding their failures than others. Some people refuse to talk about their failures. For me, sharing my failures is therapeutic. It’s relieving to talk about this thing that nobody likes to talk about. Because here’s the even bigger point- parenting doesn’t come with a manual. It is not black and white. There is NO right or wrong.
Before I could call myself a mother, a friend of mine gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever received as a parent. She warned me of all the varying and conflicting opinions I would likely hear throughout my pregnancy. She explained that while most of those opinions would be sincere in nature, they could also lead to overwhelming feelings of insecurity and intimidation, especially as a first-time mom.
“Trust your instinct”, she said. “You are going to be that sweet little girls’ mother and you will know her best. Whatever you do, whatever choices you make- if they are made out of love, they are right.”.
Those words have had such a profound impact on my role as a parent, even now, as a mother of three. The decision to let my brave kiddos try the slide today was made because I want them to be brave, to experience new things, and be unafraid of something new. Today didn’t turn out as I expected and I’m still struggling to get that fall out of my head, but you know what? My decision felt right in the moment. It was made out of love and it lead to a lesson learned and an experience gained.
If you are beating yourself up for a recent ‘parenting fail’ or struggling with a tough decision now… take heart in knowing that you’re not alone. We’re all failing. And whatever decision you make for your sweet children… if it’s out of love, it’s right.
You know those cliché remarks you hear when you’re a parent with young kids?
“Oh, they grow up so fast!”
“You need to soak up these moments.”
“You’re really going to miss this!”
We’ve all heard them. We do our best to remain polite listeners, but surely find ourselves holding back eyerolls as we dismiss the advice. We sigh as we count down the hours until naptime so that we can have a break from the chaos. Can you relate to this stage of crazy? A stage that finds you standing in the kitchen as you try to make lunch amongst requests for more milk, more grapes, more this and more that. A stage of guilt because when one child needs you, they all need you and you can only fit so many kids on your lap or in your arms. A stage of anxiety because when one child is melting down, they’re all melting down and you no longer can hear yourself think as you break up fights over who gets the pink cup versus the blue cup. This is a stage in which we need more hands. More time. More coffee. More patience. More sleep.
I validate you momma, this stage is rough and not a role in which you can always embrace with a smile on your face. Just recently, I was on the interstate, driving home from my in-law’s house when I noticed a particularly unpleasant smell coming from the back seat. I glanced into the rearview mirror and to my horror, saw my 2-year-old son’s hands covered in a mysterious brown substance (Yeah, you and I both know what that was). I spent some of the longest 10 minutes of my life as a mother, frantically searching for an exit while simultaneously throwing wipes into the backseat and pleading with him to keep his hands away from his face. I did finally find an exit and it was in that moment that I dealt with one of the most repulsive circumstances I’ve experienced thus far as a parent. I won’t go into any more details, but I can assure you, this was not a moment I could ‘embrace with a smile’.
Here’s the deal though… that 2-year-old boy just recently started potty training which means soon (I hope), I won’t have to deal with any more messy diapers or blowout circumstances. My 3-year-old daughter just recently entered the phase of, “I can do it!”, which means I’m needed less because she insists on proving her independence. My 5-year-old daughter just recently transitioned from being a preschooler to a kindergartner which means I now must trust a building full of adults I don’t know to teach and protect my sweet girl.
Big accomplishments. Exciting changes. Milestone moments that will soon be memories to look back upon.
Let this be a gentle reminder that time is, in fact, passing. Eventually, we will recognize that those people who forewarned us with all their cliché phrases were wiser than we realized. It may not be today, or tomorrow, or even next year… but sometime, we will blink and when we do, we won’t recognize the child standing in front of us. We will wonder when our sweet sleeping babies became walking talking toddlers. We’ll wonder when those walking talking toddlers became curious little children. We’ll wonder when those curious little children became super cool teenagers too embarrassed to hold our hands. We’ll blink and suddenly find miniature versions of ourselves standing before us as brave, independent, young adults ready to take on the world.
While I’m sure we can all agree that this stage is crazy and chaotic and messy and overwhelming and all the things… we must also recognize that it is simply that… a stage. A phase. A time in our life that is not forever. Yes, we’re all exhausted right now by the relentless needs and demands of our little toddler tornadoes, but soon we will find those sleepless nights to be replaced with empty silence and those messy floors to be replaced with uninterrupted dust.
It’s ok to continue counting down the hours until naptime and bedtime. It’s ok to need a break. It’s ok to be exhausted. But let me offer you a cliché reminder to embrace the fatigue, welcome the mess, accept the overdrive, enjoy the chaos, and let go of the worries. Our goal as parents is not to be there forever. Our greatest accomplishment as parents will be to look at our once young, naïve children and recognize that we have raised happy, competent, independent adults.
And you know what? When we reach that point… we may even find ourselves stopping young parents, forewarning them to slow down, reminding them that time flies, and laughing at ourselves as we recite those same cliché phrases that made us once roll our eyes.