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Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Just when I think I’ve got this whole motherhood thing figured out (which usually lasts about four point three seconds), one of my three throws another curve ball. This time it was my oldest.

For the majority of her seven years of life, my oldest has been my easiest- compliant, mature, helpful, gentle, trustworthy. She is big sister to two brothers (ages four and one) and exhibits first born qualities through out the day, every day. She is my helper, my sidekick, my shadow. So when, on a now forgotten date, some weeks ago, she began exhibiting behaviors I had never seen in her before, I quickly became more than a little perplexed.

Dark was her mood for many of those days, and not in the way of a young child, not in the way of her brothers when they pout or whine or lash out. This was different. This was new. -Honestly, she reminded me of my darkest days as a teenager, days when I was sullen and brooding and weepy with no idea why or what in the world to do about it. (“Can a seven year old be hormonal??” I kept thinking. “Surely not!”)- Many tears were shed over those few weeks (most of them hers, a couple mine), as I wondered what was happening to my girl and what was I, her mama, going to do about it? But it wasn’t until last week that I became alarmed when she not once, but twice within a few days time, was physically unkind to her brother.

Now I realize that in many households this is normal- siblings fight, siblings hit and push or worse- and would not necessarily be cause for alarm. But this has never been the case in our home. (ok, I take that back, my one year old hits when he is mad -or frustrated or whatever it is that one year olds get- and that was probably the case when my other two were that age as well.) But now, and for as long as I can remember, Meadow and Granite do not and have not been siblings that physically fight. So last week when one argument with Granite led to her angrily pushing him off the bed with her foot and another involved her hitting his leg in response to something he said, I knew something just wasn’t right. (Both times I happened to walk in the room right as she did it, allowing me to observe and understand in a way I could not have had I only learned about it through Granite telling on her. I think that was a God thing.)

So last Thursday night (after the morning that Meadow hit Granite’s leg, her second “offense”) we were in the car on the way home, Meadow and Granite bickering in the very back seat of the van, Chaz and I talking quietly in the front as I tried not to overreact to the bickering, and Canyon observing it all from his carseat in the middle, when I brought up the hitting incident and expressed my concerns about what was going on with Meadow. I had mentioned her behavior several times prior but not with as much emphasis or concern. “I don’t know what to do with her. I don’t understand where this behavior is coming from.” were some of my words to my husband. And it was right around that time that the bickering in the backseat escalated (once again, as had happened so many times that week, thanks to Meadow) to the point that Meadow was told by her father not to speak again until we got home (about five minutes away).

“You guys go on inside. I’m going to stay in the car and talk to Meadow.” were Chaz’s words to me as we pulled into our driveway. I gathered the boys and their bags, headed inside and began getting them both ready for bed, all the while thinking about my girl and wondering what was being said in the van sitting under our carport.

About fifteen minutes later father and daughter entered our back door and Meadow quickly, quietly headed to her room to get ready for bed, Granite following her close behind. I greeted them both from the couch then watched Meadow walk away, noting that I would talk with her after talking to my hubby. Standing, with Canyon on my hip, I asked my hubby how the talk went, what was said, what was her response to him. Almost immediately his eyes filled with tears. Alarmed and surprised I waited for him to speak. He recounted their conversation, speaking the words that brought his tears-

“A few minutes into the conversation it dawned on me to ask, ‘Has someone  been treating you that way?’ (referencing her hitting and pushing her brother), to which she immediately answered, ‘Yes, Amaya next door hits and pushes me sometimes and she yells at me.'”

At that point he paused, giving me a chance to gently ask, “Why the tears?”

“It’s just so pitiful. She’s never been treated that way by anyone. And you know it’s been on her mind by how quickly she answered me. Just picturing her dealing with that and thinking about that…” he kind of trailed off at that point, tears still filling his eyes.

We talked for a minute more before the older two ran back into the room, then decided to continue the conversation later, after all the loud short people were in bed. I hugged my husband fiercely, so very grateful for his care and concern for our daughter and our family, and kissed him goodbye as he headed back out the door to return to work for several more hours.

And for the rest of that night and for the past week since, Meadow has been back to her usual self- chipper, talkative, helpful, occasionally emotional, sometimes selfish, silly, gentle and kind. Her mood has been joyful, her aura light, her energy pure. Our home has returned to its usual state- quiet and peaceful, full of chatter and laughter, with a bit of arguing and bickering mixed in.

And all this week I have asked myself: How could one conversation with her daddy release my girl from the torment that was causing such ugly behavior, such emotion, such a dark mood for so much of those three weeks?

This is what I have come up with, these are the lessons I have learned (or relearned maybe?) from the kid next door:

1) Learn to ask good questions. I think sometimes our children/the people around us are hurting or thinking/feeling things that they need to express and just don’t know how to without a little prompting. Learn to ask good questions. And lots of them.

2) Don’t always take a child’s/person’s behavior at face value. Children/people are selfish creatures and much of their ugly behavior stems from this. But other times they are only reacting out of the hurt that they are experiencing or feeling. Don’t assume their bad behavior is just them being “bad”. It could be from them feeling hurt.

3) Don’t be naive and assume that the children your children are playing with are going to treat them with respect and kindness. Be observant. Be vigilant. Be appropriately protective, especially until your children are old enough to protect themselves.

4) And lastly: There is power in the spoken word. I have learned (relearned) this for myself recently as I have fought some ugly demons (another post for another time) and watched the stronghold that these demons have had on my heart loosen each time I confess/express/speak them to a friend or family member. I saw that same power the night Chaz talked with Meadow. So speak, my friends, speak! Find someone you trust, someone who loves you and speak your truth, speak your struggle, speak your demons. Find the faith, the humility, the guts, and speak! And if you have no one, no one in your life to listen with compassion, please, please message me. I know an incredible counselor and would love to pass along his number. I am also a willing listener myself. Speak what weighs on your heart and watch as the load begins to lighten.

I hurt when my children hurt. I so much want to protect them, protect myself, avoid any and all hurt as well as I possibly can. But I am also learning that life’s hurts usually lead to life’s greatest lessons. And that that is one small/huge piece in our story of redemption. So I  am also grateful. Grateful and learning and hurting and laughing. Thanks for reading, friends. Let me know if you need me.

Sincerely Yours,

~Echo~

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A Rare Good Night’s Sleep: Had.

Mug of Decaf Coffee: Savored.

One Year Bible: Read.

Sunshine: Admired.

Beds: Made.

Breakfast and Lunch: Served. And Eaten.

Blog Post: Posted.

Google Reader: Perused.

Grocery List: Started.

Phone Calls: Made.

Indoor Plants: Watered.

First Grade Bible, Reading, History/Geography, Math, Science, Writing/Spelling, and Piano Lessons: Taught.

Preschool Letters, Numbers, Colors, Shapes, Animals and Potty Training Lessons: Taught.

Most Dishes: Washed. Dried. Put Away.

Counters and Tables and Chairs: Wiped.

Living Room and Dining Room Floor: Swept.

Some (but Not Enough) Laundry: Washed. Dried. Folded. Put Away.

Toys, Games, Puzzles, Movies, Art Supplies, School Supplies: Picked Up. Put Away.

Piles: Er…Improved.

Crockpot Chicken and Potatoes with Organic Farm Fresh Squash and Zucchini Casserole and Giant Bowl of Organic Farm Fresh Watermelon: Prepared. Served for Dinner. Thoroughly Enjoyed.

Leftovers: Refrigerated.

Food Scraps: Composted.

Heat: Avoided.

100 Ounces of Water: Downed.

Pandora: Turned Up.

Baby (Still in Utero): Nourished. Held. Protected. Eagerly Anticipated.

Children: Hugged. Kissed. Held. Dressed. Fed. Taught. Trained. Reminded. Assisted. Reminded Again. Disciplined. Listened to. Read to. Laughed with. Snuggled with. Prayed with. Comforted. Adored. Enjoyed. Marveled At. Appreciated.

Husband: Missed. Appreciated. Kissed. Cuddled with. Enjoyed.

Friends and Family: Texted. Facebooked. Emailed.

Three Mile Walk: Taken.

Pregnancy Journal: Updated.

Labor: Anticipated.

Many Prayers: Uttered.

Blessings: Counted.

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Dear C,

First of all, thank you for your affirmations! I appreciate your encouragement so much. As you probably know, it is my tendency to focus on where I/we are lacking/weak and because of this I too often forget to just acknowledge and celebrate that which I/we have done and are doing well. So thank you for that reminder.

I started putting together this list after our talk/your questions the other night. These were the first things that came to mind. Please let me know if you have any thoughts/questions about any of these (or if you disagree with any of them! I want to hear that too.) I will try and write again soon with more detail and some examples. I hope you are having a good week with your munchkins and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on all of this!

So, let’s see, in no particular order…

1) Remember that YOU are in charge.

2) Be calm but FIRM in your discipline. Always.

3) Consistency, consistency, consistency.

4) Follow through. If you SAY you are going to do it (or not do it) you gotta DO it (or not do it).

5) Choose your battles carefully and only start the ones you are willing to finish. Because as the parent, you need to win. Every time.

6) The birth of your first child is a good time to go ahead and accept that you will have to repeat the same words and phrases about 8,000 times before that particular lesson becomes a habit/strength of your child’s. Accepting this will save you a lot of frustration and impatience later on.

7)  There is a significant difference in attitude between a child who believes they are worthy of great things and a child who thinks they deserve all things. Instill the former. And for your child’s sake (not to mention the sake of every person who will ever know your child) avoid instilling the sense of entitlement that comes with the latter.

8 ) Have great expectations. Children really are smarter and more capable than we tend to give them credit for. Ask more of them. They will rise to the occasion.

9) Think of not completely childproofing your home (with the exception of certain safety precautions. Some of those I understand.) as one giant teaching opportunity. Allow them the opportunity to learn to yield. And to learn respect for the word “no”.

10) Your example matters. If you want your children to be kind and respectful and patient and hard working…YOU need to be kind and respectful and patient and hard working.

11) Remember that the lessons you teach them and the home you create for them in their developmental years will be their “normal” and a point of reference for them for many, many years to come. Take the time to envision what type of adult you hope they will become. Because their journey towards being that adult begins TODAY.

12) Always keep in mind that your job is to work yourself out of a job. What’s cute at 1 and 2 will NOT be cute at 7 and 10 and 14. Do the hard work of intentional training NOW. And later you WILL reap the rewards.

13) Sibling rivalry, terrible twos and the dreaded teen years, at least in the sense that we refer to them, are all cultural myths. Believing that these are myths is the first step in helping them to become so.

14) Though every child is different, the BASICS of parenting remain the same. It is the details that should be adjusted to deal with varying temperaments, personalities, strengths and weaknesses.

15) FIRM boundaries and a good schedule will go a long way in making the rest of this possible.

Ok, so that’s all for now. (This ended up being a much longer list than I thought it would be when I started it! Guess I should have known that would happen…) Though training and discipline are both important (and often challenging!) parts of parenting, also remember to take a deep breath, SLOW down and ENJOY your munchkins! This is the hardest job you will ever have but it can also be the most fascinating, fulfilling and rewarding job you will ever have. Take time for the hugs and kisses, the stories and the questions, the jokes and the laughter. You will not regret those moments. I promise. 😉

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In my ideal world…

…every day begins before my children wake up, with a quiet breakfast, a time to read Scripture and a conversation with my God.

…my house is clean every night when the lights are turned out – dishes washed, floors swept, laundry put away and all toys in their place – allowing a fresh start to each morning.

…my life is organized. My home stays organized.

…all, or at least most, of my family’s meals are organic and nutritious, prepared at home and served at our dining room table.

…I have the wisdom and the vision to homeschool my children well – to fill their minds with knowledge and their memories with experiences that will equip them to do anything, to be anyone.

…I have the wisdom and the patience to train my children well – train them to pursue righteousness and purity, to love God deeply and to honor Him by loving and serving people and by telling His story to anyone who will listen.

…my children know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I adore them, that I want what is best for them, that I accept them and that they mean the world to me.

…my husband and I have – and consistently follow – a clear and intentional plan for our finances – for how much and to what we give, save and spend, including a clear and intentional retirement plan.

…I have passionate sex with my husband several times a week, every week.

…I read two good books a month – the kind that inspire, make you think, make you see the world a little differently than you did before.

…I never stop growing or learning or improving.

…I am an injury-free ultra-marathoner.

…I am a world-traveler (as are my husband and children!).

…I am a published author.

…I love my husband, my children, my family, and my friends well – that is unconditionally, loyally, with deep compassion  and no judgement.

…I have my very own Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte.

…the romance never dies.

…my purpose is clear, my calling known, my direction steadfast, my path straight.

…I have unwavering Faith (you know, the kind that moves mountains).

What is your vision for your ideal world?

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15 weeks preggers

04/06/11

Well life has been on hold for several months now as my body has tried desperately to adjust to the demands of the little person growing inside my belly.  From the middle of January until the middle of March, most of the hours in my day were spent eating, sleeping, crying, and/or parenting my 5 year old and 2 year old from the spot on the couch where I was laying with my eyes half closed, trying not to vomit. Admittedly, not the most impressive two months I’ve ever had. As I told my husband about six weeks ago, “I would not make a very good chronically ill patient.” No, beauty and grace have not been my middle name.

It is humbling to know I am always a pregnancy away from completely falling apart.

But the last few weeks have been better. I am still deeply and utterly exhausted (When I say deeply and utterly, I mean it feels like there are tiny suction cups covering every inch of my skin, sucking every ounce of energy I have ever had out of every single cell in my body.) But I am down to more occasional bouts of nausea and my hormones have balanced out enough so that the fog of depression feels like it has lifted. (Both things for which I am extremely and constantly grateful.)

And since I have done little more than lie on the couch these past few months, my brain has been given more time than usual to think (a bit too much time, if you ask me), so I have many, many thoughts to share. With all of my pregnancies I have found myself in a state of restlessness, evolution, even discontentment. I don’t know if it is the hormones, the months of sickness or the sense of entrapment that comes with feeling like a victim of my own body, but pregnancy always gets me thinking, dreaming,  scheming of new ideas, new questions, new plans and ideals. Oh yes, I am often dreaming and scheming, pregnant or not. But that part of my brain seems to stay on hyper-drive when I am pregnant. Which has got to be the hormones…

So let’s see if I can get my “pregnancy brain” in gear, and get some of these thoughts down on paper (and by paper I mean 2echoEcho.wordpress.com) before I forget them just as I forget everything else I try to remember these days. (Which has been proven, really is the hormones.)

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I had a moment with my five year old on Sunday. I don’t know what to call it really- precious, heartbreaking, hilarious…a misunderstanding- it was all of those.

Chaz and I and the kids are at Mazatlan. We are sitting at a long table with four other families. Granite is sitting between Chaz and me, Meadow is sitting at the end of the table with another couple. We all sit and talk and peruse the lunch menu until our waiter comes and takes our orders.

About five minutes after we have all finished ordering Meadow walks over and stands by my chair.

“Mama, can I have a cheeseburger?” she asks quietly.

“Oh honey, we already ordered,” I reply. “You’re gonna have some of the chicken that mommy and daddy are having. You can have a cheeseburger next time.”

Her expression changes but she doesn’t move, doesn’t speak.

“Please mom, can I have a cheeseburger?” she asks again after several moments of silence. (This is not unusual. Often she will ask for something, I will say no, and she will ask once more before I sternly remind her not to ask again when mommy has already said no) But this time was a bit peculiar. Usually her second time to ask for something is a bit whiney and more like pleading than asking. This second time was calm, but insistent.  Peculiar.

I pause, intrigued by her tone. “Did you ask daddy?” I ask her.

“Yes. He said no too,” she responds.

“Meadow!” I scold, “If daddy said no, you shouldn’t ask mommy. You need to respect what daddy said. We already ordered. You can have a cheeseburger next time.”

Another pause, then again, without whining but with a hint of tears in her eyes and in her voice. “Please mama, please can I have a cheeseburger?”

“No.” I reply, once more. “Mommy and daddy both said no. Do not ask again or you will be in trouble.”

And again quietly, this time with a tear or two escaping and running down her cheek, desperation in her voice, “Please mom. Can I have a cheeseburger?”

At this point I am appalled and more than irritated. I cannot believe she has asked four times for the cheeseburger! It’s like she is not hearing me at all! I turn to Chaz and ask him to talk to her, she sits beside him and cries as he does. I cannot hear what he is saying. I take the moment to calm my frustrations. Meadow stays in the chair beside Chaz for several minutes before returning to her seat beside our friends. I get distracted, talking to the couple beside us and forget, for a moment, what just occured between my daughter and me.

A few minutes later our table’s orders arrive.

“Chicken quesadilla?” the waiter asks. The friend sitting beside me responds that it is her’s.

“Cheeseburger?” he asks, holding up the next plate. No one responds. Several of us look at each other.

“Cheeseburger?” the waiter asks again. Still no response. “It must be another table’s,” someone says. The waiter sets it down and moves on.

In that moment I look at my husband. My eyebrows raise, and his do as well, as it dawns on both of us what has happened. We look over at our five year old. She is sitting in her chair, tears streaming down her face, looking stuck and absolutely miserable.

“Did you order a cheeseburger?” I ask her. She nods miserably. I resist the urge to burst out laughing. I find the situation both hilarious and pitiful all at the same time.

I turn to the couple sitting beside her, “Did she order it all by herself!?” (this has never happened before)

“She said that was what she wanted. We helped her order it.” they respond.

We tell the waiter who ordered the cheeseburger and I look at my daughter as he sets it down in front of her. She is still crying.

My heart melts as I become fully aware of the situation- She expressed to our friends what she wanted to eat. They ordered it for her. She realized then that she had not asked first, so she asks, after the fact, probably not expecting us to continually and firmly say no. She can’t get a yes, but knows its already been ordered and doesn’t know what to do. (why she didn’t just tell us that she had already ordered it and deal with it that way, I do not know.) So she asks way too many times, then falls to pieces as the inevitable arrival of the unauthorized cheeseburger becomes more and more imminent. Oh. My. Word. My heart melts.

I stand up from my chair, walk over to my daughter’s chair and motion for her to follow me. We find a quiet corner in the restaurant (in an effort to avoid embarrassing her further by talking to her in front of the entire table) and I hold her in my lap as she cries. We talk. I explain to her that it was one big misunderstanding, that she is not in trouble, that I’m sorry for the misunderstanding, that sometimes misunderstandings happen. I tell her it is ok for her to eat her cheeseburger, remind her again that she is not in trouble and hold her tightly, whispering a few more assurances into her sweet smelling curls.

She says she does not want her cheeseburger, that she is not hungry, that she just wants to go home. I tell her I understand that she is emotional, that we should take some deep breaths and go back to the table and eat. She repeats her first statement. I realize then that continuing to talk about it is probably not going to help. I change the subject. I suggest that we set the cheeseburger aside, eat it later when she does get hungry, and work on coloring a picture for her aunt who has had an emotional morning too. This idea peaks her interest. She stops crying, asks why her aunt is emotional, then gets excited about drawing a picture to help her aunt not be sad anymore.

I take her back to the table and sit her between me and her brother. She shares half of her fries with him, dumping a mound of ketchup onto her plate for him to dip his fries in. We talk and color and eventually her appetite returns.

As I watch her sitting beside me, eating her burger and fries, coloring her picture and talking to her brother, I am reminded how much I adore my children. I think about how important good communication is. I realize that, even in ridiculous and irritating situations, I am so, so blessed to be a mama of two fascinating, complicated, unique little people. And I decide that when I get home, I will have to write a blog post about the inevitable arrival of the unauthorized cheeseburger!

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I was looking through old Word documents tonight and found this letter I wrote almost five years ago. As soon as I began reading it, memories and emotions from that year began flooding into my mind. What a precious time in our life- the year we became parents.

——————–

To: Daddy                                 From: MG and Mommy
 

Father’s Day 2005

Well, the list is far too long – of things we adore and appreciate about you – so we made a list of the top ten that we want to thank you for…

10. Thank you for going to work every day to provide for us and for going to school these last two years – we know it takes a lot out of you – we are very proud of how well you have done and how well you balance school work with taking care of us.

9. Thank you for not getting frustrated if we are running late or the house is a mess or dinner is not on the table – you are always so kind and forgiving.

8. Thank you for keeping smiles on our faces and laughter in our voices – for being so silly and entertaining us all the time.

7. Thank you for holding mommy when she is sad and for holding MG when she is sad. We always feel much better when you are holding us.

6. Thank you for being so humble and so quick to apologize. You are such a good example of that.

5. Thank you for protecting mommy’s purity when you guys were dating (even though there were times when you didn’t really want to) and for helping pass that legacy on to MG.

4. Thank you for being so patient with our emotions (especially mommy’s).

3. Thank you for being so open and honest with us. We feel very secure knowing that we can trust you completely.

2. Thank you for the depth of relationship that each of us has and will continue to have with you – for not viewing us as a job or a responsibility that you come home to every night.

1. Thank you most of all for loving God and for striving every day to be more like His son – because of that you have shown us a love that is greater than any other. We love you so much!

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