Parenting

Learning to Love Again. Every Day.

momma in me

When they are babies it is easy.

You rock them; you cradle them. You hold them; you kiss them. You do it out of pure love.

You do what a mama is designed to do.

You feed them and burp them and keep them alive and breathing. You check on them and worry over them and fuss over them.

Is she eating enough? Is she sleeping enough? Why isn’t she sleeping? Why is she sleeping so much?

Is she happy? Is she suffering?

We wonder and worry and love, love, love.

But they don’t give much in those early days.  Just their gentle sighs and their smiles in their sleep.

They don’t say, “I love you.” They don’t reach out to hold you and hug you.

But you keep giving.

You do it because you love them. You do it out of love.

They don’t talk and give back in the way that one normally gets back love, but you love them nonetheless.

But as they get older this changes.

Your little baby is no longer a baby, she’s a toddler.

And then that little toddler is gone and in its place is a little fresh preschooler.

And with each change you learn to love again. You learn to love in a different way.

Just last week my little girl was wrapping her arms around my neck as hard as she could. She’d whisper in my ear, “I love you soooooooo much….” And I’d say it back. “I love you soooooo much…” and then I’d wrap myself up into the warmth beside her and drink up that love.

But she doesn’t do this today. She no longer wraps her arms around my neck and says “I love you sooooo much” like she did just yesterday.

In one week that has changed.

Today, I whisper to her, “Who loves you more than anybody in the whole wide world?”

“Mama,” she says, without missing a beat.

“And who do you love more than anything in the whole wide world?” I ask. “Dada,” she says.

My heart skips a beat. What do I say?

And just for a moment, out of my own need, I test the waters.

“You don’t love mommy?”

Of course she does. She loves us both, she says.

Her idea and expressions of love are changing and with that I must change to.

She’s speaking now, thinking, loving with her mind, not just her heart.

Love is no longer an unadulterated instinct that wells up from within her and springs forward out into my arms. It’s a thought and a decision and a test.

She’s maturing.

The irony is that where she needed me more in the past, I am growing to love her more with every day that passes.

And with every day that my love grows deeper and stronger, she is moving a little bit away from that precious, sweet love made strong by the mommy umbilical cord.

So I need to learn to love all over again. I need to learn to love the way that she needs it and want to.

With each passing day, I need to learn to love again.

Learn to love again.

Every day.

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50 Parenting Lessons Learned the Hard WAy

50 Parenting Lessons I’ve Learned (The Hard Way)

Posted: Wed, 06 Jun 2012 13:14:07 +0000

 http://www.scarymommy.com/lessons-in-parenting-young-kids/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ScaryMommy+%28Scary+Mommy%29

1. Super glue has no place in a house with young children.

2. Neither do Sharpie’s.

3. There is no such thing as allowing your kid to play with your phone “just once.”

4. Don’t use Google to diagnose illnesses. Ever.

5. Dollar store toys cost far more than a dollar in frustration, anguish and regret.

6. The terrible twos are bullshit. The terribleness lasts through at least age four. Or, forever.

7. Always carry wipes, long after diaper wearing has ended.

8. Resist purchasing character Bandaids, unless you’re prepared to buy a box a week.

9. You can never have too many Goldfish. The crackers, not the live ones.

10. Don’t buy bunk beds, unless you have absolutely no choice.

11. Keep track of who gave what at birthday parties.

12. Never stock batteries in your house, or you will be forced to make obnoxiously loud toys work once again.

13. Buy Mr. Clean Erasers in bulk.

14. Backup all photos. Better yet, print them.

15. Look in the oven before you turn it on.

16. There is no point in making beds.

17. Accept the fact that you will turn into your mother.

18. Always check pockets before washing clothes.

19. There is no such thing as “running” into Target with children.

20. Take more video.

21. Daily baths are overrated.

22. Find young babysitters and groom them. The less attractive, the better.

23. Always have ample one dollar bills on hand for lost teeth and bribery.

24. Carry plenty of emergency snacks in the car.

25. Keep expensive cosmetics out of arm’s reach. Arm’s reach, on a stool and tippy toes.

26. The four year old check-up is brutal.

27. Look before you sit down to pee.

28. Train your children to clean up all Lego’s before bed, knowing that nothing is more painful than stepping on a Lego with a bare foot at midnight.

29. Save “no” for when it really matters.

30. Over-apply sunscreen.

31. Practice caution when approaching that stray raisin on the floor. It’s probably not a raisin.

32. Never pay full price for kids clothes. They always go on sale and the expensive ones inevitably get ruined first.

33. There’s a reason why people surprise their kids with trips to Disney: Their anticipation may kill you.

34. Don’t take their word for it when children say they don’t need to pee before leaving the house.

35. Lock your bedroom door.

36. And, your bathroom one.

37. Never open a can of soda handed to you by a child.

38. Walk away from temper tantrums. Or, record them for future enjoyment.

39. Upset as you may be, hair grows back.

40. But, not on Barbie dolls, so hide the scissors.

41. Never buy more than two pairs of shoes at once. Their feet will inevitably grow once you do.

42. No matter how hard they promise, kids will never walk that puppy as much as you hoped.

43. Give away the books you can’t stand reading.

44. No child went to college with a pacifier.

45. Don’t buy any toy that is meant to come apart, unless they can put it back together themselves.

46. Keep a well-hidden stock of lollipops.

47. Don’t allow Play-Doh on carpets. Or, indoors, for that matter.

48. TV won’t really turn their brains to mush.

49. A bathroom in a house with boys will never smell clean.

50. It doesn’t get easier.

Scary Mommy Book Review

www.scarymommy.com

Book Review of Scary Mommy by Jill Smokler

By Brenda Robert, Ph.D.

Among the most cherished and iconic of our cultural mythologies is that of motherhood. Linked arm in arm with such other icons as baseball and apple pie, motherhood has been painted as a blissful, self-sacrificing state and those who occupy the pedestal are somewhere between the Madonna and sainthood.  Depicted in art and literature as everything from soulful to stalwart, “mothers” of the world have an impossible standard to live up to.  After all, who can possibly match the good deeds of “Mother” Teresa or the ferocious force of “Mother” Jones?

The welcome news is that someone has made it OK not to live up to those impossible standards.  That person is Jill Smokler who has written a delightful and truth telling book called Confessions of a Scary Mommy (Gallery Books, 2012). Smokler’s book shines a light into the hidden corners of motherhood….you know those corners, the ones where the dust balls, animal cracker crumbs, and missing pacifiers congregate. It’s also the place where mothers hide their secrets, the dizzying and occasionally distressing aspects of being a mother which aren’t voiced to a judgmental society. Each of Mommy’s chapters is an essay prefaced by a list of Mommy confessions by other mothers on that particular subject.  For example, in the chapter on husbands: “I tell my husband we are out of milk so I can run to the store for ten minutes of quiet time.  I don’t tell him I drank the last of the milk.” On eating: “I eat sweets while hiding in the bathroom so I don’t need to share with my children.”

Scary Mommy is more than hilarious; it’s also addictive, especially so for someone who has been there.  For those who haven’t, it’s a peek behind the curtain of that sanctified state known as motherhood.

Brenda Robert is an author, poet, and mother of three, grandmother of three, and greatgrandmother of one. She earned the badge of MOM long ago and wears it well. She is retired from a career of teaching English and then keeping those teachers in line as an administrator. She is also my mom!

Maintaining the Balance of Mommy and Me

Have you ever tried to keep a teeter-totter in motion without someone on the other side to balance you out? Well, that’s what it feels like sometimes as a mom, especially as a single mom. Balancing my roles as a parent, a professional, and an individual feels a little like running back and forth between two sides of a piece of playground equipment just to keep it in motion!

As a parent who has made some pretty child-centered parenting decisions such as opting not to have a crib and allowing her toddler to nurse until the almost age of three, the majority of my non-working and waking hours have been literally devoted to parenting. In addition to working days, I also work some evenings; I don’t have a partner to tag team with; and I usually go to sleep at the same time as my child.

Given these circumstance and parenting decisions, I have become quite creative in finding ways to get the time that I need for myself and in maintaining my identity outside of parenting.

Below are some of the strategies that I have found useful in regaining some of the “me” that gets lost during parenting. I have somehow managed to find ways to fill the nearly “on-empty, adult-me tank” that occasionally gets low on fuel.

And these tips are not only for single parents: Anyone who knows the challenges of parenting may find them useful.

Make Your Free Time Meaningful
What do I think of when I first think of free time? Let’s see…vacuuming the living room, unloading the dishwasher, and grading papers. How much of that is restorative to me? None! I am the master of getting everything done before giving something to myself.

What I have learned in finding ways to balance the responsibilities of parenting with restoring myself is to deliberately schedule activities during my twenty-four hour free time that are meaningful to me.

For instance, on Sundays I started going to a mediation class for an hour. It’s only an hour and it feeds me spiritually and emotionally. It’s like McDonalds for the soul! I also started running with a friend on Sundays. To save time, I suggested a location that is extremely close to my house. With this arrangement, I can do something that is meaningful without spending my precious free time traveling. Perhaps running around a lake further away would have been more slightly more scenic but it would have meant one less hour that I would have for myself.

Break the Rules of Parenting Occasionally
Taking a hot bath or even a quick hot shower is a luxury for me these days. It is quite relaxing and restorative, but hard to do with a toddler in the midst. So how do I gain some me time? By breaking the rules! Tonight my daughter wanted to eat her evening snack at a late hour so I made the decision to let her take her snack upstairs where she could eat it while I snuck in a quick bath! I felt ever so slightly guilty as I watched her happily munching away on her avocado while wearing her Elmo bib in the bathroom, but for a few minutes I got to relax in tub thus bringing some balance into my life.

Work Meaningful Activities into Your Daily Routine
One of things I love most is to ride my bike. A year ago I decided to move out of my townhouse and into a single family home so that my child would have a nice backyard in which to play. My house of choice was deliberately chosen because of its proximity to daycare and my work. The location of my house allowed me to ride my daughter to daycare on my bike. This has turned out to be a wonderful bonding ex[erience for us, as well as a centering and peaceful activity for me. We have watched the seasons turn, have observed the flowers growing, and keep a close eye out for dogs. At the same time it is me at my happiest. After dropping her off I am able to bike to work and then do the same in reverse at the end of the day. Instead of commuting in a car an hour a day, I am on my bike doing something I enjoy.

Network with Other Parents
Spending time bonding with your child are special, happy moments, but from my perspective, there’s still a self that needs to be fed. By forming social relationships with other parents, you can plan and enjoy activities that are child-centered but that also allow you to engage in healthy adult-to-adult communication. Coffee shop play dates, trips to nature centers, eating out: These are all activities that can include your child, but at the same time you are able to find ways to connect with adults and explore the non-child side of you.

Find People that Care about You and Your Child/Children
Going out for ice cream is so much more fun with another adult. If you are a parent that does most of the hands-on work, it is so freeing to have another adult around who can clean up that spilled water or take the child to wash her hands. A loving adult who cares about you and your child can be a gift that you can never repay. And the best thing about it: That other adult is FRESH! They are likely in a good spot mentally spot and probably have had a good night’s sleep whereas you may have been wakened multiple times by a child calling “momma.” Going out with another adult allows you to continue to bond with your child, but at the same time you can get that break you might need. And, hey, have a hot fudge sundae while you’re at it. You deserve it!

Find Ways to Save Time
A friend of mine jokes that I have hired a husband for most everything. I have retained the services of a doogie-pooper-cleaner-uper; I pay a woman who cooks amazing macrobiotic meals and drops them off at my house once a week; and the several inches of snow that fall on my sidewalks are blown to the side by a snow removal service. Yes, these things all cost money, but if this leaves me more time to take care of what is really important; i.e., me, then it is completely worth it!

Sign your Child up for Activities You Enjoy
My little girl is enrolled in mama-baby music classes, mama-baby yoga classes and swimming lessons. Each of these benefits me in some way. The music class is fun. I get to sing and dance and wave scarves around. Yoga is one of my favorite ways of keeping fit; during momma-baby yoga class I’ll sneak in a few extra vinyasas for myself. Swimming lessons? After the 30 minute swimming class I get to hit up the hot tub. She sits on the side while I loosen up those achy muscles. Score!

Don’t Pack Too Much into Your Free Time
I have found that when I have an evening free I want to do all of the things I enjoy in one evening. I want to go to a movie AND go out to dinner. I’ve learned over the past couple of months to pick one of the two and to savor the luxury of not rushing to and from different activities. By only going out to dinner I have a leisurely hour to get to the restaurant and a good couple of hours after my outing to do whatever I want at home. It makes for a more relaxed and enjoyable evening. Plus, I can get a 20 minute nap in before I go out if I so desire!

Balance isn’t about a fifty-fifty split between being a parent and nourishing the self. As a parent with lots of hands-on parenting time, balance means being creative about finding ways to maximize the free time one does have and about being intentional about what is being gained during that time. It’s also about finding ways to bring yourself into the parenting process and to secretly gain something for your own self while you are parenting. Happy parenting and remember “nourish thyself!”

Rediscovering Myself: The Momma in Me

When I had my baby almost three years ago, I felt trapped, scared, and alone. The forty-one years prior to my child’s birth had been all about me: my schooling, my jobs, my love life, my friends, my travel. I was a busy woman and I liked it that way. I came and went as I pleased. I enjoyed the world and a myriad of activities. I ate and slept when I wanted. Flexibility in my day was mine, and I LOVED it that way!

But then came a day when that all changed. It was the day my little, tiny, needy, crying baby girl was born.

On some level, when this precious soul entered the world, the previous version of me packed up her suitcase and left. Or perhaps, part of me simply moved over and made room for her little soul to join mine to create a new and better version of myself. Either way, this 7 pound, larger-than-life being had taken my life over like an alien in Star Trek forcing me, a forty-one year old, seasoned woman to completely change my life.

The fact that the person I had known as myself was gone scared me immensely: “Who is this screaming child robbing me of my sleep and my life?” and “Who am I and what is to become of me now?”

It felt as if everything I had known was gone and would never return.

My mother gave me some sage advice that kept me going. “It won’t be like this forever, Christina. She’s an infant. In a few years, she’ll be less dependent on you and you’ll get back some of what you feel you have lost. Those things are not gone forever.” I held onto the hope and belief that someday I would be me again.

The past three years since her birth have been spent assessing my life and who I thought I was. What do I keep of my former self? What do I let go of? What do I gain in its place? How do I mother while maintaining my identity as an independent woman?

Compartmentalize & Focus
I was so used to multitasking that it was extremely frustrating to be so incapacitated while caring for my infant. She was also a difficult-to-soothe, colicky baby that did not like to sleep at night. This is all exacerbated by the fact that I was doing all of the nighttime care because I’m an NMSM (Never Married Single Mother).

To cope, I learned to compartmentalize my thinking. In these early months, I realized that in order to be the kind of mother I wanted to be, I would had to give myself over to parenting during those precious hours that I was with her. So, when I got home from work, I would make a radical mental shift and clearly accept that the next twelve hours would be baby time. I would repeat to myself over and over, “This is baby time . . . This is baby time,” as I walked down the sidewalk towards our townhouse.

Be Present
There was no use wishing that I could parent an infant and continue to do the things I used to do. I realized that I had to be present for my baby and wholeheartedly accept my role as a mother–no matter how difficult those hours might be. At the same time, I had to temporarily leave my transforming identity in the car until the next time I went off on my own.

Me Time
When I did leave the house it was ‘me time’, and I rejoiced in that. Granted I was working, and most of the time I wanted to put my head on my desk and take a nap, but there were those intermittent times when I felt like my old self again. I would deliberately seize those few minutes to just relax and enjoy life. This came in the form of stopping by the YMCA for a soak in the hot tub for fifteen minutes or taking a bike ride around the block for ten minutes before the babysitter had to leave.

The New Me
Now that she is almost three, things have gotten much better, just like my momma said they would. I have not reclaimed myself completely, and I’m not sure that I ever will or even want to do so. In short, I simply don’t see the world the same way I once did.

For instance, I recently signed up for a pottery class and claimed it as a delicately carved out period of time that I could spend doing something just for me. It was meant to be a visceral, creative, non-stressful endeavor where I could explore myself through art. What more could I ask for?

Lo and behold, what did I do in my ceramics class for the first three weeks? I’ll tell you what. I threw little tiny baby pots on the potting wheel so my little girl would have a miniature clay tea set that she could call her own. One day she could say her momma lovingly and solely made them for her.

The old me would’ve thrown five bowls all for myself. But now, as a mommy with a little two year old living in my heart, I am thinking of tiny hands and small smiles.

There is a new and better version of me that is still evolving, one which I am daily discovering, developing and nurturing. Every day I strive to find out what parts of me remain, what parts are only meant for my daughter, and what parts are some combination of the two of us. There was a former Christina and she may be gone forever. But in her place is a person defined by both me and my little girl, the little girl who brings out the momma in me.

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I was thrilled that  “The Power of Moms: A Gathering Place for Deliberate Mothers” published a guest piece that I wrote.

I hope you enjoyed it. And thank you, my little girl, for the opportunity to recreate myself, as difficult as that may be at times.

If you don’t advocate for your child, who will?

This week a friend told me a story about a little fourth grade boy who is being bullied at school. His mother is at her wit’s end. The fourth grade boy is in a combined classroom (4th, 5th and 6th grade). A sixth grader is picking on the little boy – let’s call him Raul. Raul is little for his age. He was born earlier and comes from a long line of skinny children. He’s underweight for his age. The sixth grader is dumping out his lunch when he’s not looking. When Raul tries to retaliate by hitting and calling names he gets suspended.

But this is not where it ends. Unfortunately, technology also plays a role in all of this. The sixth grader bully has a smart phone that he takes to school with him and which he uses on the playground. He also has a Facebook page and he looks at the internet while he’s outside “playing.” The school called the sixth grader’s parents and they said they were okay with this.

I don’t know the details but apparently some of the sites he visits and images he shows around to the other kids and not G rated and some contain violent images.

Who is there to protect our children against other children’s (and their parents’) misuse of the internet and of technology? When did it become okay for children to be using the internet or smart phones during recess? Recess? Really? When I think of recess I think of kickball and dodgeball, not sixth graders passing around their smart phones to young, young children. Recess is a time for our children to socialize and get physical activity, not to surf the web.

A couple of weeks ago I was at a Montessori school interviewing the director of the school to see if it would be a place where I would want my children to be eduated. One of the criteria in my selection involves a LACK of technology in the classroom. That’s right, you heard me. No computers. No iphones. No internet. I want my child to be a child for as long as possible and for her to use her intellect and creativity, not a computer.

Another mother was at the meeting with a similar goal of finding an appropriate school for her child. However, during the question and answer, she asked the director if her 3rd grader can bring her iPad to school. I’m pretty sure my face showed it all as much as I tried to avoid looking shocked. Fortunately, the director politely explained the policy on such devices and said that the third grader would not be able to bring her iPad to school. Outside the mother (who seemed like a perfectly nice woman) confided in me that the school her son is currently attending, and the Montessori we were attending, “needed to join the 21st century.” I didn’t have time to explain at length why I disagreed but I did tell her my views were very different.

So back to little Raul. If I were his mother I would in that school faster than you could blink an eye, demanding a meeting. Demanding to know what the school was going to do to protect MY child from the misuse of technology on school grounds. It is the school’s responsibility to provide a safe environment for all children attending the school. Schools can and do make policies to protect themselves and their students. Just because a parent thinks that it is okay for her son to be playing on the internet and sharing it with his peers does not make it okay for him to be exposing these things to other children on the playground or anywhere else on school grounds. Nor does any of this have its place in a public school environment. Public libraries have restrictions on internet sites that adults and children can view mostly for the protection of children.

Cell phones, ipads, iphones have no place on school grounds. At best they are detracting and distracting from the learning that is supposed to be taking place; at worst they are exposing other children to material that their parents may not want them to see.

Parents must be proactive and must protect their children. Insist on a no cell phone policy at your child’s school. Phones can be left in the locker or taken away and returned at the end of the day. Contact the PTA. Ask for a meeting with the principal. Do what you need to do to protect your child and to ensure the best learning environment possible. Leave parental decisions about cell phones and the internet to the home environment where they belong. Not on the school playground, where they go unsupervised.

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