When Being a Mom Hurts

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I knew how to love before I became a mom. I have always loved my parents and my brother and my grandparents and friends.

I then learned to love in a new way when I became a wife. It’s the same love, only different. Deeper and wider and fuller love. A love that will last a life time.

But the love I learned when I became a mom was a love that hurt.

See, I love my husband deeply and I would give up my very life for him. But the truth is that he is grown and his character is developed and I know him. It is easy for me to look at him and imagine what kind of man he will be in 10 years or 20 years or 40 years. When I love him, I feel peace.

But when I love my kids, sometimes it really hurts. I look at them and I see potential. I look at them and I see talent and beauty and brilliance and joy and all of the wonderful things in life. I see them with the eyes of a mother who feels like she knows what they can accomplish in life, how amazing they can be.

But the truth is I don’t know them yet.

I know who they are now, as 13, 3 and 2 year olds. I see character forming and personality growing. But I don’t know who they will be. And sometimes that is scary.

Sometimes I worry that the mistakes I make now will forever alter the course of their lives. That a hurtful word from a bully will damage their souls. That a failure will break them down and make them give up. That a broken heart will be unable to be mended.

Being a mom is scary. And being a mom hurts.

When my children hurt, I hurt in the deepest places. Say something mean to me and it stings. Say something mean to one of my children and I literally feel an ache in my chest.

I so badly want to throw my arms over them and shout to the world LEAVE THEM ALONE! DON’T YOU KNOW WHO THEY ARE? DON’T YOU SEE HOW AMAZING THEY ARE? DON’T YOU DARE HURT THEM!

And it hurts me because I know that as much as I may try, I can’t protect them. I can’t take away the pain that they’ve already been through, the losses, the trauma, the scars. I can’t protect them from heartbreak or envy.

Their future is theirs. I can influence and hope, but the path they each one of them takes will be their own.

I look forward to the day when I will be old and will look into the eyes of my children and see life shining there. I look forward to seeing the paths that they take and watching them grow.

I dread watching them fail and hurt and feel loss and shame.

The things that they will walk through will form them and shape them. I only hope that as their mother I can influence them with love enough that they will always be able to see the beauty of their own souls.

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When Being a Mom Gets Too Complicated

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I hope I’m not the only mom who has had a near panic attack because I was terrified that I was ruining my kid.

Because I let him watch more TV than is recommended for a kid his age, which may ruin his imagination and turn his brain to mush. Because I gave them two cookies, which may weaken their immune system and open the door to any number of deadly diseases. Because I can’t find two socks that match and what kind of mother sends her kid somewhere with socks that clash? Because they have had a bath in three days. THREE DAYS. Because I can’t afford to send them to the most expensive and prestigious preschool in town and surely they are doomed to a life of failure. Because sometimes I *accidentally* tell them that they are driving me nuts and that they need to go away. Permanently damaging, I’m sure. Because those two cups of juice are sure to lead to obesity and a lack of green food at lunch time is depriving them of essential nutrients and her crying herself to sleep because I just can’t take it anymore and I’m putting him in Luvs because it’s all I can afford but the chemicals may destroy something important down there and WHAT IF I CAN”T HAVE GRANDCHILDREN BECAUSE OF THESE DAMN DIAPERS?

And on and on and on and on the list goes.

NO ONE TOLD ME THIS WAS GOING TO BE SO COMPLICATED!

Every move, every decision a chance for me to completely ruin my kid for life. And I can’t take the stress anymore.

I used to be a really good mom. I used to follow all of the recommendations and Google every little thing and read all of the websites on attachment parenting and what exact foods my children need at every meal and what developmental milestones we should be hitting each month.

And then I gave up.

Because for every site that I looked at, there were two more saying something different. And because he really, really doesn’t like brussels sprouts no matter what I do to them. And because my kids like to get dirty but sometimes after dinner mommy is so done and I can’t live through bathtime so they just need to go to bed.

I love my kids.

I adore them, actually. They make me laugh and they keep me busy and I love playing hide and seek with them and I love sweet hands touching my face and late night talks and giggles and snorts.

I love being a mom.

I want what’s best for the little people that I’ve been given to take care of. I want them to be healthy and smart and strong and happy.

I want them to be happy.

And having a mom who is about to collapse with worry about whether or not a movie is killing her child is not going to make a happy child.

So here’s what I’ve figured out: I do the best I can and I let things slide.

I trust my gut and then I go with it. And I trust that if the human race has been able to survive this far then my children are probably going to turn out just fine. And then I take a deep breath and drop the guilt and just be present with my babies.

Because what they need more than anything else from me is a mom who is there and a mom who treasures and a mom who knows how to chill out.

3 Tips for Preventing Toddler Meltdowns

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Over the past 5 years as foster parents, we have learned a lot of tricks when it comes to keeping our kiddos happy. Of course every toddler (and adult for that matter) is going to have bad days, but here are some tips that should help keep the peace in your home.

1. Give Choices

I absolutely cannot stress this one enough. It is so important that our children get lots of chances to make decisions about their own lives. As a parent, It is very easy to choose everything for them, from the bowl they use for breakfast to the clothes they wear to the books that we will read at nap time. But giving our kids the freedom to choose the little things throughout the day will make them more agreeable when it comes to the big things that they do not get a choice in.

When giving your toddler choices, keep them simple by giving them two options and be sure that you will be absolutely okay with either choice. Some examples of choices you can give to even a very young toddler include: Do you want to wear the green shirt or the blue shirt today? Would you like the blue bowl or the purple bowl? Would you like to swing or go down the slide? Would you like to walk next to mommy and hold my hand or would you like me to carry you?

In each of these scenarios, I am absolutely fine with either choice. I am not overwhelming my young child by giving him too many options. Instead, I am keeping the choices simple and giving him the freedom to express himself. I do this throughout the day as much as possible with my two and three year olds and have found that they love to make decisions about little things in their lives and that they are much more agreeable when I have to lay down the law on something important.

2. Use Clear Transitions

One of my toddlers has a very hard time with changes in schedule. This child likes to know exactly what is going to happen and what order it is going to happen in. This is my child who used to have meltdowns when I announced it was time to leave Chick-Fil-A. I’m talking screaming, kicking, hitting. It took me a long time to realize that this child just doesn’t do change well and this is my child who needs a warning before things happen.

I can honestly say that we do not have the meltdowns when our plans change anymore or when it is time to leave somewhere fun. The way we have overcome those tantrums is through the use of transitions. I generally tell my toddlers what we are going to do each day in the morning. If the plan changes, I get down on my knees and look them in the eye and gently tell them about what has changed. I don’t wait until we have to leave to go somewhere unexpected or just pretend like it didn’t happen. I keep them informed.

When we go somewhere to play, I let them go into the play place and play. I will generally go in there about ten minutes before it is time to leave and just watch them play. Five minutes before I want to leave, I give them the five minute warning. I will say, “I am setting the timer on my phone. We are going to leave in five minutes.” I make sure that both children have heard me by asking them if they understand. Then I let them continue playing.

I repeat this scenario when we have two minutes left. I tell them verbally that we have two more minutes until we need to leave and that when our time is up they will need to put their shoes on. I make sure that they have heard me and understood and then let them continue playing.

When it is time to go, I generally will tell them that they can either go down the slide (or whatever they are doing at the moment) one more time or that they can go ahead and put their shoes on (giving them a choice). Surprisingly, they don’t always choose to go one more time! Quite often they walk right over to their shoes and put them on. I will then sometimes give another choice like, “Would you like to walk next to me or would you like me to carry you to the car?” Like I said above, I try to give them as much control as possible throughout their day. I was able to get what I needed, which was to leave at a certain time, but I can be flexible about whether they go down the slide one more time or whether they want to walk or be held. This keeps us both happy!

3. Have a Playful Attitude

This one can be hard, especially if we are in a hurry or if something needs to be done and my kids are fighting me on it. But I have found that all of my children (including my teen!) respond better to me if I maintain a playful attitude and a soft voice with them.

If I have a child who is fighting me on something, I try to find a way to make it fun for them. Let’s say I have a child who just really doesn’t want to brush her teeth. I can either scream and yell and force her to brush them, probably causing her to cry and throw a fit along the way. Or I can use my sing song voice and say something like, “You know what? Mommy hasn’t brushed today either. Let’s do it together and see who can make the most foam while they brush.” Kids love to do almost anything if it’s a game and if you’re doing it with them.

Another situation might be a child who is watching a movie and who does not want to turn it off when the timer dings. If I see a tantrum coming, I may go tickle that child or find a way to give them a choice about something else. I may say, “I know that you’re sad about the movie, but it is time to do something else. Would you like to color with me for five minutes or would you like to go play outside?” Instead of becoming angry at the child, I maintain my cool and shift the tantrum into a fun activity or choice.

I have found that by using these three ideas daily with my toddlers, I have seen a great reduction in the number of tantrums that they have. They still have their moments (and so do I!) but in general they are happier and more agreeable then they used to be before I started doing these things.

Having a bad day? You’re not alone.