Tag Archives: feelings

On Becoming a Mommy

Some people are born into families that love and respect them. They grow up knowing their self-worth. They know the worth of those around them. Some people are respectful of others because it doesn’t occur to them, even in moments of anger, not to be. Some people make great parents. I am not one of them.

I am the best me I can be. I am the best mother to my children I am capable of being. I would like to think that is good enough. And maybe for today it is. However, I want tomorrow to be better. I want to be better.

As we enter Lent and reflect on our lives and grow closer to God I look at the way I parent and know the most direct path to God is through my Children. Each moment I choose to be calm instead of yelling, respectful instead of spiteful, I move closer to God. And closer to my children.

Over the years, the actions of others impacted me greatly. Maybe not enough to instantly change the path my parents started me on, but enough that I knew an alternative path existed. When I was seventeen, I babysat for a wonderful family. Everyone was happy. It was plain to me that the children loved and respected, not feared, their parents. I didn’t have an opportunity to witness their parenting in action very often (I was the babysitter after all), but there were clues. An article on the fridge said children might feel shame or embarrassment if a parent corrected or disciplined in front of others. They used a secret word to let the children know they needed to talk in private. No spankings, no standing in the corner, no yelling, shaming, insulting.

Years later I was blessed to meet some wonderful people who have shown me that it doesn’t matter how a person parents so much as why they parent. These friends have parented in ways I said I never would. However it’s plain to me that their children are no worse for wear from the style of parenting. What’s the difference?

Respect.

As parents we don’t automatically deserve respect. We must earn it. One way of earning it is being respectful to our children. One parent may spank, another may talk, still another may use time-out. It doesn’t really matter (IMO). What matters is the feel of the exchange to both parties. Do both the parents and the children leave the exchange feeling loved and respected? If so, then everything will work out okay. But if the parents feel like they’ve given-in, then they leave resenting their child. If the child leaves feeling like his/her parents didn’t listen, didn’t understand, or did’t didn’t care, then they’ll be less inclined to talk to the parent in the future. That child will be less inclined to heed the parents advice, and will more likely go against the parent’s wishes in the future. Unless both parties feel respected there will be no real resolution and no real connection.

It’s a tricky road to walk. How does one learn to be respectful? It’s usaully pretty easy to see when I haven’t been respectful. Broken hearts glisten in tears rolling down sweet little faces. But choosing the gentler path can be difficult.

For me it starts by seeing the patterns. I know certain things will happen everyday. I’m in the middle of doing something and one of the girls needs me. I know she needs me before I provide my undivided attention. I know that every day, one of my girls will inadvertently hurt someone else. I know these things happen and I can choose how to respond before it happens. Having a plan in effect takes the stress from the situation and allows me to show my children how much they mean to me by not yelling. That plan gives me the opportunity to bypass my knee-jerk response. Now I need to work on moving that plan into other areas of my life. Into other relationships.

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Someone Broke Her Funny Bone

The girl’s discovered a new game – thanks to Daddy. For the past several nights we’ve had to play doctor. Before you get concerned, it’s not that kind of doctor. First someone must be injured in some way (pretend), then Mommy or Daddy give an ambulance ride on our back (Eoo, Eooo) around the house a few times. Then we diagnose the injury.

“Oh, no. Someone broke her funny bone. There’s only one cure…Tickles.”

We then proceed to tickle from head to toe, briefly. We stop and ask if they’re okay. They dissolve into fits of giggles and declare their funny bone’s still broken. This goes on until Ryan’s completely tired out and ready for bed. By then the girls’ve received enough love to allow daddy some space.

When it’s time for bed, everything runs smoothly. They ask for their story, they fall sleep. Easy. They’re secure in our love – and that makes all the difference.

We have many variations on this type of game. Another one we play quite often has been around since Agatha was about 6 months old. I’d hold baby in front of me, facing out, and we’d chase Ella around the house. When we caught her, baby would tackle Ella and we’d tickle her. Then it’d be Ella’s turn to chase us. I’d periodically turn so baby could see Ella, then with a squeal we’d turn and flee. This game helped the girls bond in such a wonderful way. It also wore them out in such a wonderful way. We now play this with Cordelia chasing the big girls. It helps put them all on even footing. It’s a game that allows everyone to play, and there’s no competition because everyone WANTS to get caught. After all, that’s the fun part.

We have many fights during our days.  “She took my toy.” “I want her toy.” “She’s sitting on me!” the list goes on. But ultimately those dissolve into nothing when faced with the many ways our girls do play together. They’ve both had moments where they don’t like the other – and that’s okay – because they overwhelmingly love each other.

If children can move beyond conflict by playing with each other, don’t you think parents can move past conflict by playing with their children?

 

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Why Children Misbehave

About a month ago we went through a period where the girls were completely out of control. Someone was always being hurt, someone always being mean. There was a lot of yelling, a lot of tears, a lot of hurt feelings. The girls needed more attention , more love, more understanding, but the behaviours made it difficult to want to give them what they needed.

At some point, I believe, every parent gets to that point at least once. One night after a particularly rough evening, Ryan turns to me and says, “I just don’t get why she (Ella) does these things.”

The answer was painful. Obvious. We were responsible for her behaviours. Not directly of course, but in a lot of ways the things we did in response to her actions, caused more, bigger actions. At the time I wasn’t modeling calm behaviour. I didn’t model a gentle voice, I didn’t model patience, or a willingness to see someone else’s perspective. Her acting out directly mirrored my own acting out. Between Ella and I, Agatha also acted out. She no longer had comforting arms every time she needed them, she no longer had a soothing voice when scared, her sister no longer gave her the space she needed. With three people in the home angry and hurting, it only makes sense that Ryan felt the tension. It’s expected that he began to act out as well.

Use whatever analogy you choose. A family is a single unit, like the body, a car, or computer. When one part doesn’t functioning properly, the rest malfunction as well. As my hormones came back into balance and the quality of my sleep improved, my moods and level of patience improved. The difference was instantaneous and so beautiful. The girls calmed down, Ryan came home happier and better able to join the girls in their pursuits. Our family healed.

I believe, and please don’t take this as finger-pointing, that if a child is acting in a way that’s unacceptable to the family, then the parents need to look at their lives and see what the root cause is. Children, especially young children, pick up the stress and tension within the home and act on that. The moods in the home become substantial, palpable. A harsh word is as strong as a rough hand, a brick wall. When the people within the home are out of tune, then children aren’t capable of acting in a calm collected manner.

So what’s a parent to do? Sometimes situations are out of control. A person is sick, there isn’t enough money etc. Find out what you need in order to feel in control again. Or what can you do to make things better.

In my case it was a mental shift. I had to let go of needing certain things. I had to reaffirm my conviction that the parenting style we’ve chosen is the best for our family.  If it was a lack of money, we’ve been there, we’d find a way to make the money go farther, or decrease our wants. If a person was sick, we’ve been there too, we’d try to find ways to work around the illness without taxing the person. We’d try to find ways to focus on the rest of the family, rather than the sick person.

In all cases we find ways to have unstructured fun as a family. Before starting our fun we, the adults, talk and try to guess what behaviours we’re likely to see – running, climbing, jumping, screaming, grabbing, pushing, pulling, hitting…. and try to find ways to allow the behaviour without anyone else being hurt or afraid. From the “Playful Parenting” book we’ve taken the ‘love hit’ suggestion to heart a few times. If a child hits us, instead of getting upset, lecturing, saying ‘no’ we laugh and look goofy as we inform them it was a ‘love hit’ and now we’re so madly in love with them we must hug them and kiss them forever. They run away squealing – the hit and whatever caused it completely forgotten. The parents are now back ‘in control’ and everyone is enjoying their time together.

In order to fix hurt hearts and down feelings we don’t need a ton of time, but we do need to prove that we’re there for our children. We don’t need to give them everything, we can still offer guidelines and boundaries, but we must do so gently and respectfully. If we model it, they will follow it.

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A Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart

A few days ago a friends on facebook posted lyrics to the  Thankfulness Song – of course the song instantly stuck in my head and next thing you know I’m humming it, singing it, and really wishing it would leave. : ) But a person can’t help but think about what they have when those words stream through the internal speakers of the mind.

So despite what I may say sometimes I’m going to tell you now some of the things I’m thankful for. Hopefully if I’m more open with my thankfulness, then my children will be as well.

I am incredibly thankful for my husband. He has an amazing level of patience and understanding. He’s also kind, caring, considerate and funny. You can even tell him I said so.

I’m thankful for three healthy wonderful little girls who light up my life and show me each day how narrow my view is and how wonderful the world can be.

I’m thankful we live in a place where women and girls are treated respectfully.

I’m thankful for the amazing opportunities we’re able to give our children, fun classes, safe places to play, a chance to grow our own food, see wildlife, and live in freedom.

I’m thankful for the wonderful neighbours we have. We’ve moved into a new home and it’s wonderful to see a smiling face every time our paths cross.

I’m thankful for the many styles of parenting out there. I learn something from every single person/family I encounter and nothing is more valuable.

I’m thankful for the group of Mommies/families we’ve began spending time with recently. Their knowledge is invaluable and even as it’s nice to meet people of differing views it’s empowering and refreshing to meet others whos basic views are the same.

I’m thankful for the free time I have to write.

I’m thankful to live in a world where books are so readily available, I know not everyone has access to a library and many don’t even own books, yet I can read about any topic I choose.

I’m thankful for the abundance we have that allows me to stay home while my children are small. Sacrifices are made, but what our family receives in return are worth much more than we could possibly give up.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to homeschool our children.

I’m thankful for friends with animals, especially dogs. I will be even more thankful when we start visiting those friends (and said dogs) more often.

I’m thankful we have little girls who accept our refusal to get a dog (for now).

I want you to know I’m thankful. I hope to show that more often in my day to day life. It’s a work in progress, but I’m trying.

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Let Eagles Soar And Children Play

What is our job as parents?

Don’t answer right away, think about it for a moment or two.

Is a parent’s job to teach their children? To protect their children? To drive them to soccer practice? How about to Love them? Teach them how to be good adults?

I don’t think any of those are correct. Children won’t always take the intended meaning from a lesson. A parent might intend to teach their child how to cross the street safely, but the lesson the child learns is actually that streets are dangerous and from that point on they cower. At first the parent may believe this is a good thing – after all their little one can’t get run over if they never cross the street. However on closer look the parent taught their child that the world is scary and dangerous. And by instilling that fear they also inhibited their child’s ability to actually assess the world for real danger and the likelihood of injury could actually increase.

To drive them to soccer practice? I think not. Soccer isn’t for everyone.

To love them? Perhaps. But more importantly to love them in a manner they receive. A parent can love with all their heart, but if that child doesn’t believe the parents actions are actually love, then it isn’t.

How to be good adults? What is a good adult anyway? One that makes lots of money, or has a big house, lives naturally? That’s a pretty vague notion, something else must be the main goal of parents.

To protect children? Maybe. Partially. Unfortunately many parents believe they need to protect their children from imagined dangers. Or real dangers that are better experienced than protected from. We’re guilty of this on occasion as well. However, our children still have the opportunity to be children. They run barefoot, they climb trees (or they try anyhow), they pick up bugs (and slugs – blech), they ride horses, they swim, but most importantly if they want to try something we usually let them.

We recently met a family with one child on a special diet for health reasons. At eleven that child is not allowed to attend birthday parties on her own, plus she must bring her own food. She is not allowed to attend day camps for fear she might eat something that isn’t good for her. Sure she might eat something that could get her sick, but is it really doing her any good being protected by her parents?

Let’s look at what she’s learning. She can’t be trusted to know what is or isn’t safe. The world isn’t safe. Only her parents can keep her safe, but only if she is segregated from the rest of the world.

What isn’t she learning? How to protect herself, to advocate for herself. She isn’t learning that the world can be safe and that other people are willing to look out for her as well. She isn’t learning how to play freely with her friends. Every single aspect of her life is shadowed by her diet – all out of love.

So if I don’t believe these are what being a parent is actually about, then what is our job?

As parents it is our job to raise our children to have positive views of themselves and the world.

Perhaps you’ve seen it also. People who see the good in the world, the good in the people around them are happier. They also tend to have better ‘luck’ than those with a negative view. They go farther in life, live longer, live happier.

How do we go about raising children with positive views of themselves and the world?

We allow them to roam free as much as possible. When they’re little, just learning to crawl, allow them to navigate a safe room freely. Allow them to gain confidence in themselves and learn that the world is safe. As they learn to walk and climb, follow behind, if you must, but allow them to climb up and down those stairs a million times. remove anything that’s likely to be truly dangerous and let them explore their home without hearing “No” all the time. The more freedom they have the more confident they become. They learn their limitations, but also their strengths.

As they get older, let them ride the bike. Let them climb at the playground. If they fall, hug them, kiss them, let them cry. Encourage them to try again. If they are afraid of something, let them be afraid, but don’t deepen their fear.

As a baby Agatha was afraid of dogs. We never forced her near them, but if we saw one, we didn’t pick her up and run away either. We’d pick her up, and talk about the dog as it passed. Once it was gone, we’d wave bye-bye and say “wow, you were really brave, you didn’t cry as the dog walked passed.” Eventually she gained the courage to pet a dog. Now she loves them.It would have been easier for us to pick her up and walk away from dogs, but would it have done her any good? She’d be less likely to ever get bitten by a strange dog, but she’d be afraid. The fear could have grown, she could have become afraid to leave the house for fear of seeing a dog. We allowed her the opportunity to see that most dogs are friendly and ways she can keep herself safe around dogs she doesn’t know.

What other ways can we encourage a positive view of the world and of themselves? We can spend time with them.

When we went to the playground last week, we played pirates. The entire family joined in the fun. Tomorrow we’re going birdwatching. We play games at home – both made up and structured. We cuddle and read books. Spending time with our children lets them know they really are important to us. When we follow their lead, it shows them their ideas are valuable.
That is ultimately the key. Children need to know they are worth their parents time and that their thoughts are worth listening to.

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Should Siblings Be Without Rivalry?

For Months I’ve heard people recommend this book, “Siblings Without Rivalry”, yet I’ve refrained from reading it. I’ve read pretty much every other parenting book out there, even when the person recommending it parents completely opposite of us. My reason for reading all of them is that even a book or a person I disagree with can help me along my journey to becoming a better parent. When I see someone do something that goes against my parenting philosophy it solidifies in my mind why I parent the way I do. It also allows me a chance to see better ways to approach something similar in my own family.

So why did I balk at reading “Siblings Without Rivalry”? A book recommended by many people who parent in a similar manner? Easy. The title scared me.

Siblings without rivalry. The words indicate that it’s both possible and desirable to have no rivalry in a home. That initial reaction left me feeling inadequate. My children fight. A lot. Some days I have no idea what to do. Ella chases Agatha around the house while Agatha screams and cries. Agatha follows Ella everywhere, even when Ella’s asking for space so she can calm down – then Ella loses it and hits Agatha. My girls love each other deeply, but they fight – sometimes they’re downright mean to each other. I didn’t want to read a book that indicated my children shouldn’t be fighting – that would mean I was doing something terribly wrong.

Put the camera down, and rescue me!

Not only do I think I’m doing a pretty good job, but I think rivalry is a necessary part of growing up.

I don’t mean parents should create it – far from it. But I think rivalry helps children learn how to navigate social interactions. Though it only provides learning if parents facilitate the learning in the beginning. When they’re little parents need to model ‘fair fighting’. Parents also need to help their toddlers and preschoolers work through disagreements so everyone comes away feeling respected and safe. A toddler won’t know how to ask for a toy he wants and another toddler won’t know what to do when someone takes her toy. As parents we can help them learn how to ask. And how to stand up for themselves without hurting anyone.

However, as children get older it’s important for parents to step back and let them disagree, let them yell at each other. Let them learn what happens when they say X, Y, or Z. they’ll find out what happens when they ruin a siblings prized possession.

Those were my thoughts. And they haven’t changed after reading the book.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but wanted to keep an open mind.  First, I think many of the ideas presented in the book are very similar to their other book “How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen…”. Second I was pleasantly surprised. They didn’t suggest siblings shouldn’t fight, or even that it was possible to prevent fighting. They did provide ideas on how to support each child so when fights occur children will be able to feel respected and safe. The book also highlight things many parents do that creates further tension between children and greater levels of rivalry.

For the most part we already use many of their techniques, but it’s always great to have a reminder. There are also new ideas presented that we’ll try out over the next few weeks to see how things go.

I’m going to make a point over the next week to pay closer attention to the girls disagreements and how they resolve. Do they need help, how do I react, was everyone able to feel safe and respected?

 

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I Have a Treasure, Not Made of Gold

James P. Sullivan roared. Boo screamed and ran away terrified.

What do your children see when you scream at them?

Disney/Pixar's Monster's Inc.

If this is what they see, do you think they can effectively listen to you? Are they likely to learn from the situation?

There are times I tend to yell. When I’m tired, feeling rushed, when I’m doing something I don’t want to stop doing.

But if I yell, I put a barrier between me and my children. Looking at MY triggers it’s easy to see they really are mine, not my children’s.

If I’m tired, I have less patience. A little spill. Something expected for the age, becomes a big deal. I want the mess prevented in the first place, not just cleaned up. I tend to yell. I tell the girls to clean up. I yell at them because I have more mess to clean. But nothing is solved.

I could take a deep breath and say “Oh-oh, the juice spilled on the floor, can you help clean it up?” They’d probably happily help and we’d continue our day happy. Yelling ruins everyone’s day.

If I’m running late for an appointment I want the girls to hurry. I want them to put their shoes on, I want them to go potty, I want to find my lost ten minutes and end up blaming the girls. But can it be their fault? Aren’t I the one who’s supposed to get us up on time. Isn’t it my job to have everyone fed, dressed, and ready to go? If so, then why do I blame them? Why do I yell. It’s my problem not theirs.

If I kept it my problem, we’d all leave the house in a better mood. We might still be late, but we’d be happy and the rest of the day would run smoother.

What about when I’m making dinner? Food needs to be made, everyone needs to eat. It’s reasonable that I ask them to give me space. Isn’t it?

No it isn’t. Not all the time anyhow. In fact most of the time, I should stop and give them my attention. If they need company, they can help me make supper. If they need a snack, they need it NOW, not in an hour. If I stop what I’m doing long enough to get them a snack it’ll only push dinner back fifteen minutes max, so what’s the big deal?

Those are little issues, easy to solve. What about big issues? Someone gets hurt, someone needs my help telling her sister to let go, to stop taking toys. Is it fair to not only tell them I’m unavaibale, but also to yell at them?

No. When they aren’t capable of solving their problems it’s up to me. I can let them know I’m there, available to help them, love them.

How would you feel if you asked for help and the person you asked started yelling at you? Scared, sad, hurt, angry? None of those emotions help you solve your problem, none of them give you confidence. So why do we create those emotions in our children, and expect them to grow and learn from them?

It’s unrealistic.

Today I challenge myself. For one week I will not yell at my children. I will find other ways of letting them know my thoughts and feelings. I will show them how much they mean to me, even when I don’t like their actions. From Sunday to Sunday I will take a deep breath and remain calm with my precious girls.

My Precious Treasures

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