This is the Best Parenting Gift I’ve Received

January 22, 2018
Parenting Gift

My son gave me a beautiful gift the other morning.

It wasn’t a macaroni necklace or a Cheerio birdfeeder (though those are always appreciated).

No, instead, it was a glimpse into his world and the way he has absorbed the love we’ve given him over the past (almost) 3 years.

As parents, we wonder what lessons our children are learning from us. We know we are far from perfect, but we try so hard to do our best and build kids who are strong, happy, and whole.

We respond to their needs on a second-by-second basis.

If there were a parenting playbook, it would have torn pages, scribbles, and a whole lot of question marks.

In other words, it usually feels like a blind endeavor no matter how much you’ve read or how thoroughly you’ve prepared.

But, sometimes you’re fortunate enough to get a glimpse of what’s good–to see exactly what you’ve done right.

That was the gift my son gave me.

Parenting Gift

He shared that gift with me in the way he quickly rushed to my side when I bumped my arm in the kitchen. He ran over, took me by the hand, and urged me to sit down so he could inspect my “injury.”

I knew he learned that from my husband and I, and the way we rush to show concern and love when he’s hurt himself.

He shared that gift with me again later when he assigned a name to an emotion he was feeling, saying that he felt “frustrated” when he couldn’t carry all of his toys at once.

I knew again that this was something he learned from us–the way we try to assign a name to a feeling and how we encourage him to share it with us and ask for help when he needs it.

He then shared that gift with me again when he said he wanted to help me with my socks and shoes before we left the house–something we’ve done so many times for him.

But, since we also strive to instill independence and have been letting him put on his own socks and shoes (no matter how long it takes sometimes), he stopped midway so I could takeover.

He gave an enthusiastic “good job” when I pulled my sock over my heel, echoing a sentiment he’s heard countless times from us. Then, he held the loop on my boot and coached me to “push” my foot down–something we’ve done constantly this winter.

It was wonderful to see all these moments play out in a single morning.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen images of the love and concern we’ve given him reflected back to us, but it was the most recent, and it is always appreciated.

They are reminders that our love matters and our moments matter, and that you don’t have to be a perfect parent to see your love and influence perfectly reflected back at you.

These gifts may be small, but they are mine, and though they cannot be worn around my neck or hung on the fridge, they are tangible, and they are real.

But, like I said. I also appreciate a nice Cheerio birdfeeder when it comes my way, too.

Parenting Gift

Humor Parenthood

The Ten Commandments of Parenting Toddlers

November 21, 2017
parenting toddlers

Parenting toddlers is an experience. They’re navigating the big world as brand-new people with their own thoughts and feelings, which they can’t wait to share with you every minute of the day.

They have big preferences and big emotions.

As a parent, it can be difficult to guide someone who is innocent enough to believe in talking trains, but independent enough to defy directions.

Thankfully, there are some simple rules you can follow to ensure you survive your child’s toddlerhood relatively unscathed. So without further ado, I give you the Ten Commandments of Parenting Toddlers.

The Ten Commandments of Parenting Toddlers

parenting toddlers

1. Thou shall repeat thyself. Loudly and often. Practice talking to some of the walls in your home. Have a conversation with a blaring television set. This will be good practice for trying to converse with a stubborn toddler.

2. Thou shall adorn thine home with shrieking plastic battery-operated toys. The louder, the better–in color and in sound. It does not matter what your previous decorating styles were. Your home is no longer Transitional Contemporary. You’re a Marvel/Disney family now.

3. Thou shall throw all home cooked meals directly into the trash. No one’s going to eat that.

4. Thou shall line thy pockets with M&M’s lest you find yourself without a bargaining chip while trying to leave the park with your offspring. M&M’s are no longer just a sugar-laden treat you find loose at the bottom of your purse. They are your ticket to a quiet car ride home. They are your negotiation strategy. They are the only currency that matters.

5. Thou shall never watch a television program thou enjoy. In fact, cut the cable and subscribe only to YouTube channels that specialize in unboxing Kinder Surprise Eggs. Had a long day? Good. Flip on a YouTube video and watch an irritating family build a trainset in their living room. Do you feel relaxed now?

6. Thou shall never get a full night sleep. A toddler is like a newborn that can walk, talk, switch on the lights, and hop into your bed at 3 AM.

7. Thou shall have a filthy car. Get a head start on the mess by vigorously shaking a soda can and then cracking it open. Pour a gallon of milk in the backseat. Crumble a bran muffin and crush the crumbs into the floor.

8. Thou shall never arrive on time. Even if you managed to survive your child’s new babyhood as a perpetually punctual person, toddlers are a different animal. You’ll be on time until your toddler spends twenty minutes running away from you while you try to put his shoes on, or hops into the rear of the SUV instead of climbing into his car seat.

9. Thou shall never finish a sentence. Or a thought, or a conversation, or a meal without being interrupted 746 times so they can tell you all about Thomas the Train or Batman or Dory.

10. Thou shall be patient and loving. For all their challenges, those little people are a wonder. For while they can be salty, they are still generally sweet, and usually still cute enough that their antics will make you laugh instead of cry.

Humor Parenthood

The 4 Universal Truths of Parenthood

October 31, 2017
truths parenthood

New parents get a lot of advice, mostly unsolicited. I’ve written before about my relief upon discovering that my life would not completely end after the birth of my son—that I could still do things that were important to me, whether it be working out or keeping my life (mostly) in order.

With all of the dire warnings expectant parents receive about the horrors that await them after the arrival of a child, I think it’s important to let new parents—and especially new moms—know that there is hope. You can still try to incorporate things that are important and meaningful to you in your new mom life. All is not lost—at least not forever, anyway.

That said, there are some aspects of parenthood that seem to be universally true, and time and again, the thought “they weren’t kidding when they said…” has crossed my mind.

Here are four of those truths. Of course, individual experiences may vary, and I certainly can’t speak for everyone, but they weren’t kidding when they said:

truths parenthood

1. You will never sleep again.

I heard this one frequently, as nearly every expectant parent does. The warnings come from all sides. Your family. Your neighbor. The mail carrier. Your labor and delivery nurse (seriously though, she means it when she tells you take a nap during your overnight labor).

I remember when my son was two months old, an acquaintance remarked that my husband and I wouldn’t get any sleep for the next five years. Everyone had some sleep warning to share. And let me tell you—they weren’t kidding.

They tell you that you won’t sleep, but what they don’t tell you is why. Newborns don’t sleep for the obvious reasons. Then, as babies grow, there is teething, sickness, mental leaps, growth spurts, new transitions, and then toddlerhood where children have the ability to sleep longer stretches, but also have the ability to climb out of bed at 4 AM shouting MAMA and demanding a cup of milk.

Further, even when your kid starts sleeping, your internal clock has been permanently wrecked. I could be in a hotel bed 3000 miles away in a sea of down pillows, and even then I will wake up every 2-3 hours and struggle to fall asleep each time. It’s like your child is literally in your head, manipulating your internal clock from within.

Sleep does improve, but you really will never sleep the same way again.

2. It gets easier.

When you first become a mom, almost every new task is daunting and everything about caring for a newborn is exhausting. You go from being an individual person who exists in the world primarily taking care of your own needs to this “mom” person literally overnight, and suddenly, nothing about your life is familiar and your needs no longer come first.

A newborn doesn’t care if you literally haven’t slept in days or if all you had for breakfast and lunch were Cadbury Eggs. Their needs are desperate and immediate and having to be responsible for the weight of such a fragile new being while also trying to assemble the puzzle of your bewildering new world can feel overwhelming.

The exhaustion, the novelty, the not knowing what lies ahead, and having almost no perspective or experience from which to glean is what makes the new parent stage so difficult.

This is why new parents are frequently told “it gets easier.”  It does—your new baby will grow, her little personality will shine, and she eventually will become a more efficient eater and a better sleeper (for the most part—see above). It does get easier, but that also brings me to the next truth.

3. It gets harder.

It gets so much harder. But it’s OK because you will be stronger.

Somewhere around six months, when your baby becomes much more mobile and starts getting into everything, you realize how calm the first six months of your child’s life were in comparison.

During that time, you could actually sit with your baby and read a magazine or just down gaze lovingly, and he would cling to you without trying to shimmy off your lap or somersault onto the coffee table. You could look at your phone during downtime without feeling too guilty because your baby would actually be asleep, or they just really loved staring at the ceiling fan—not staring at you, wondering what that curious contraption in your hand is.

With every exciting milestone reached come new challenges.  Walking. Running. Talking. Throwing tantrums. Sharing. Responding to directions. You realize more than ever that the choices you make really really matter, and that’s a daunting realization.

Plus, the physical challenges of parenthood also increase as your child grows. Carrying a 7-pound infant around in a bucket seat is awkward and takes some getting used to. Also difficult—toting a thirty-pound toddler around who’s teething and will literally climb onto and cling to your legs like a spider monkey if you put him down.

I’m told teenagers are a dream.

It definitely gets harder, but the upside is you get stronger. The initial shock of parenthood wears off, you adjust your expectations, and with each passing month and year, you become a more experienced parent and are better able to handle the challenges that come your way.

4. You will never love anything as much.

Despite all of the challenges, when they tell you that you will never love anything the way you love your child, they are not kidding.

Even if it takes time for you to feel the “sunbeams bursting from your heart” type of love that everyone tells you about, it will hit and it will hit hard.

With each new smile or new word or act of affection, your heart and soul with shine with a love and pride you never knew possible. You will love fiercely and unabashedly.

You will understand the exquisite pleasure and pain felt by every mother who ever lived and will be so honored that you’re able to share in the vast mystery that is the creation and growth of human life.

It will knock your socks off—and also make up for the fact that you haven’t slept in five years.