How to Protect Your Kids (when you’re not there to protect them)

I have this ache, a pit in my stomach, a tightening in my throat as if I’m going to throw up or have to swallow hard to hold back…. Something like that. It’s a pain, a fear for my children, of my children feeling pain – their own pain. My pain. I wish I could protect them from it all but, I know I can’t and I hate this.


This school year has been an awakening in many ways. My son entering kindergarten has been more than an entry into tardy bells,  PTA meetings, last minute projects, car pool lines, and site words; it has been an introduction to the possibility of my kid being hurt, feeling hurt and me not being there to protect him. This, for me, is tough.


My kid and I are both used to spending a lot of time together. Up until the end of August 2017 he stayed home with me all but 3 days a week, and when he wasn’t with me he was at an innocent preschool with other innocent preschool kids. No one was mean there. Not that I knew of anyway. And even if there were mean kids, my kid was too young to notice. He was happy and free.

But it seems that something changes once those elementary doors open: more time away, more independence, more maturity (I use this word loosely), less protection, more exposure, more possibility of hurt to incur off my watch. I think the thing that irks me the most is that I don’t know what’s happening. I can’t even guarantee that my kid will tell me if something hurtful does occur. What if he forgets to tell me or doesn’t want to tell me? What if he decides to deal with it on his own?. .  This phrase sounds like curse words to me. I fear for my 5 year old to handle hurt feelings “on his own”. No, I want him to run home and tell me every detail of what happened at recess that day. What made him happy. What made him sad. What made him mad. What made him excited. What made him afraid. I want to hear it all. But, like most other parents I don’t hear much, and that scares me.

I can ask the right questions. I can try. I can be present at pickup and notice when he seems a little “off”. I can be curious and create opportunities for him to share about his day, every day. But, I can’t protect him from experiencing pain, hurt, ridicule, and heartache. Sucks but it’s true. So, I have to focus on the things I can do that will help him develop resilience, confidence, and strength when the inevitable occurs. In this situation where I find myself feeling somewhat helpless and terrified, I have a good cry then I pull up my mom panties and focus on what I can do:

1) Engage, engage, engage.

It would be so much easier if we knew everything that went on while we were away. Better still, if our kids told us themselves. But, this is not always the case. So asking questions that inspire a thoughtful response is key. Think open ended questions such as, “Who did you play with today?” Instead of “Did you play at recess today?” Or “Who was nice today?” versus “Was everyone nice today?” Even if your kid doesn’t have a specific response to these questions it opens the door to get a conversation going instead of being shut down by a one word answer.


2) “What do you think about that?”

This is my favorite. We as adults tend to think we know what’s best, and sometimes we do, but ultimately we want our kids to have the ability to trust themselves to make good choices and problem solve when faced with challenges. When we ask our kids what they think we show them that we not only value what they think but that we trust them to know and decide for themselves. I want my children to have a belief in themselves that they inherently know what is right, even when someone else is telling them it’s wrong. What I want my kid to hear in his own head when faced with this is, “Well I like who I am, so even if you don’t like me, I like me.” Yes! That is the ultimate win right there.

3) Believe in the power of resilience.

This one is hard for me, I have to admit. My fear wants me to believe that one painful moment could lead to a lifetime of suffering. I have to remind myself that there is no life that isn’t touched by some amount of pain, hurt, or sadness. My child will be no different. I cannot predict the future or try to prevent it. I can only do the thing I know to do which is to love my kid by being present; encouraging him; acknowledging his struggle and his accomplishment; listening to him; and reminding him that he has a whole family that’s got his back, so he knows that no matter what he’s faced with, he’s not alone.
 
This parenting thing is hard. Just when I think I’ve got a leg up, I trip and fall over something I didn’t see there before. It’s new road, new terrain. We are not in this alone. Just as we want our kids to know this, we need to know this. Expecting to do it all right and get it all right the first time is an impossible standard to meet. My hope is that by showing my kids that I struggle they will know that I’m here to support them, accept them, and walk with them through their own struggle. Knowing they are not alone is more powerful than any hurtful words said on the playground, that i can know for sure.

			

The Crazy Busy Life: How to slow down when you can’t slow it down.

Ylkphotography
 Life is truly going by in a hurry lately. I started back to work last week, which of course was bitter sweet, but surprisingly much more sweet than bitter. I’m beyond grateful to be able to stay home most days with my sweet baby #3 and still squeeze in the luxury of human interaction a few work days a week. Not a bad deal. But, none the less adding work into the mix has made my busy life busier.

I’m not one to like being busy. I’d much prefer a lot of boredom than action. Busy tends to equal stress in my experience. But, the thing is I don’t have much choice anymore. Taking care of 5 people, myself included, means there’s a lot going on most of the time. Sitting down is a vacation I embark on at 9:00 at night, 30 minutes before bed. All the rest is just a lot of “doing”.

The funny thing is that I’m actually enjoying  this crazy new lifestyle… For the most part anyway. To be honest I’m surprised by how much I like it. Knowing myself as the introvert that I am, in regular need of quiet down time, I’m perplexed as to why I haven’t imploded with anxiety yet…. what exactly is keeping me sane in the midst of this insane life of taking care of 3 kids, 1 husband, 1 job, 1 self, family, and friendships? That’s the question of the night…

To be honest – I don’t really know. But if I had to take a guess it would be this –

1) Stay in the moment.

It is so incredibly easy to get caught up in what’s NEXT. The next thing on the list, the next task to be done, the next place to go, the next thing to do, the next, the next, the next. There is always something next. When I’m focused on what’s coming next, I find myself uber stressed, irritable, frustrated, angry even. It’s like I’m resentful of everything going on because I just can’t get to a quiet calm place. The “next” is getting in the way of that. Or! If I can be present to the “busy” as it’s happening I find that I do enjoy it more, even when it’s hectic, loud, and hurried.

2) Embrace the interruption.

My day, and night (hello, I have a newborn), is one big interruption. I can’t have even one thought without someone, say a 5 or 3 year old, butting in with a question that could most reasonably be answered by anyone else but, of course mama mama mama is the name of the hour. Every hour. If I get annoyed by this, and believe me I often do, then I’d be setting myself up for a lifetime of frustration. The interruption and disruption isn’t going to stop any time soon, so I may as well accept it. Embrace it. It won’t last forever. The kids will grow and when they do I will definitely miss it.
 
I’ve been surprised that with each addition of a child into our home I’ve found myself chilling out a little more. I still freak out, like a lot, in a different way. I just can’t take myself too seriously. I’m a mess most days. I make bad mom choices, I forget things constantly, and I’m late to pretty much everything. If you knew me before kids, you’d know this would have sent me straight to anxiety hell. But now I’ll just text you a warning ahead of time – I’ll be there but, most likely I won’t be on time. Deal with it.

The lesson that I’m learning is that peace and calm aren’t found by doing less, they’re found by paying attention more to what is happening right here, right now. It all goes by so fast; I know I don’t want to miss it.


Photo credit belongs to YLK Photography

Mothering a Newborn: Tips for the Criminally Exhausted Mommy

5 weeks. 5 weeks of being an official mother of 3. 1 newborn, 1 preschooler, and 1 kindergartener. How do I feel? Probably the most common question I am asked, right before “Are you getting any sleep?” Both of these questions can and should be answered the same: It changes every day.

Today I am tired. Tired from several sleepless nights due to a recent discovery that my newborn is lactose intolerant, which apparently equals to painful feedings, screaming, crying, and incessant toots – those being painful, too. Poor baby. And yes, poor mommy.

Then the morning comes, always too quickly, and my older two children need to be fed, dressed, and out the door before the tardy bell rings. The tardy bell – that’s a whole other story… who knew kindergarten teachers could be so scary! To me, not to my kid. He loves school. I’ve already managed to get in trouble for messing up the car pool line, forgetting my car pool sign, being too early to school, too late, buying the wrong color binder… geez! Get it together, mom! I should have done a little more research on mom expectations before the first day. But, oh well. We will survive. And, we’ll all be okay.
These first weeks of mayhem are reminding me of 1 very important lesson I’ve several times learned and frequently forgotten…

Let go of at least one thing that doesn’t have to be done today.

I find I often want to do a lot of things and accomplish a lot of tasks. Clean the house, fold the laundry, put away the laundry, go to Target (because that’s what all home bound moms live to do) cook dinner, eat dinner, bathe myself, bathe my kids, sit down, sing nighttime songs, read bedtime stories, spend time with my husband, wash my face, brush my teeth, go to sleep, get some sleep! Before waking up and doing it all again.

Seems doable, right? On a “normal” day, sure. But, with a newborn? Not so much. Doing any one of these things can feel like an accomplishment when you’re bartering with a tiny human for food, sleep, and comfort.
 
When I’m approaching that danger zone of “If one more person asks for me for one more thing, I’m going to freak out!” I must ask myself, which of these “must-do’s” can I erase off my list? Better yet, maybe best to just trash the list all together. I’d rather have a little extra calm while wearing a spit up stained t-shirt, feeding my kids pb&j for the 5th day in row (trust me, they love it!) than be frantically squirming back and forth between laundry piles, burnt food on the stove, and kids crying because “mommy keeps yelling at me”.

I mean is that what I want my life to look like?

I think not.

 So, I ask myself, what can go un-done today? What can I let go of? What can I put off until tomorrow. What can I ask for help with? Epiphany! You can ask for help!

Maybe for today it means I let the dust collect a little more. (I reeeaaaallllyyy hate dust, but it will not kill me to see it for one more day). Maybe it means ordering takeout or eating soup for dinner. Maybe it means not making it to the gym, which is a luxury these days anyway. Maybe it means greasy hair (for me and my kids) or maybe it means getting to school after the tardy bell rings. Shocker! Life will go on. And by the way, no kid was ever sent to therapy because his mom got him to school late one day (or a few). It will be okay.

You’ve got to make sure you are okay. Cancel plans. Stay in bed. Forget the dishes. And the laundry. There will be another day, if we are so lucky, to do it all again.

NEW SCHOOL YEAR AHEAD! Preparing Your Child for Change: BEING POSITIVE

Last week I sent my daughter off to a new preschool. All anxiety, trepidation, and fear (on my part) was laid to rest as she went bounding into the room with a smile on her face, ready to take on the new adventure. In that moment I became very aware of two possibilities: either I am a very overactive nervous mommy OR I did a sufficient job preparing her for the change. Maybe both.

In my previous post we talked about preparing your child for the new school year through proactive prepping. Today we will focus on being positive in the face of change and all things new.

Now you might be thinking that in order to be a positive thinking parent you must be a positive thinking person. I am here to tell you, this is not true. You may, however, find that through some practice you will become a more positive person, and who doesn’t want that? I, by nature, am a skeptic. I’ve trained my brain to believe if I consider all the things that could go wrong I will then be able to prepare myself to handle it more successfully. Faulty logic, here. What actually ends up happening is I turn myself into a worrying, stressed, and irritable mess who’s actually less capable of handling the circumstances gracefully. Maybe a little positive, hopeful thinking is a worthwhile alternative to consider… I decided to give it a try.

Being positive doesn’t mean you ignore the negative. It means you include both potential pitfalls and potential successes by addressing them with a solution focused mindset.

Since we are talking about beginning a new school year, let’s take my son for example. He’s turning 5 next week and will be entering elementary school 4 days later. He’ll also be partaking in welcoming a new sibling within this exact time frame. 3 big milestones here!

My son happens to be a bit of a skeptic himself, thinking of what could go wrong before what could go right. Preparing him effectively takes a lot of positivity while still paying careful attention to his concerns. Again, we are not seeking to discount the supposed negatives here. How do I go about this delecate task? Let’s take a look…

How to be a Positive Parent when Facing Change


1). Listen Fully


As I reminded my son this morning that we were going to his kindergarten school to talk with the teacher, I could see the nerves creep up on him. “But why, mommy? I don’t want to. I don’t want you to leave me there. I will be scared.”

First, I needed to remind him what was actually going to take place. “I am not going to leave. I will be there the whole time while you talk to the teacher. We will be there for a little while then we’ll come back home.” (Proactive Prepping in action). “Oh, okay.”, he stated as his nerves soothed a bit.

It is crucial to listen to what your child is telling you, verbally and non verbally, so you can effectively respond. Being positive does not mean discounting the concern through statements such as, “It’s fine. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Don’t worry. Etc.” This causes your child to shut their fears inside where they remain unaddressed. Encourage them to let it out.

2). Validate their feelings.


“Honey, I know going new places and meeting new people can seem scary. It’s all so new! Let’s think of what you might do when you we get there. (More proactive preparing here).

3). Consider the Positives


Help your child consider the good things while validating the supposed ‘not so good ‘. “I bet the teacher will be so nice. And the classrooms – ooh man, I bet there are so many cool toys and crafts in there. You will have so many fun choices! What do you think it will be like?” “I think there will be computers?! And games?! Lots of things to color with?!” “Oh yeah! I bet you’re right! I can’t wait for us to go and check it out together!” This convo sounds like it’s taking a positive turn.

4). Let go….


There comes a time where you may need to release the grip and let your child see for himself that it really is “okay”. If you have a particularly anxious child, seeing is believing. After all your preparations and positivity they may still feel nervous, and that is okay. Having your positive belief that it really is okay will allow them to step forward in trust. There may be tears and little fists gripping your shirt that you have to pry loose with the jaws of life, but they can, and most likely will see for themself that it is okay. Better than okay even.

Monitoring your own anxiety is critical. If you’re child senses that you’re afraid, they will feel afraid. Remind yourself and your child that THIS IS A GOOD THING! You wouldn’t be doing this, on purpose, if it wasn’t.

Change can be daunting, or scary, but there sure are a lot of exciting things to be experienced on the other side. Have fun!

			

On The Road Again

Make New Friends But Keep the Old. Those Are Silver, Old are Gold. Girls trip to La Jolla, CA.
Friendships have been on my mind a lot lately....

Probably because last weekend we said goodbye to a beloved member of our mom tribe. She is moving to Houston and taking her cute hats, her humor, and piece of all of our hearts with her.

The “big girl panties part of me” knows that we are not really saying goodbye, but rather, see you soon. The “pull-up” part of my heart says, knowing that doesn’t make it any less painful.

Old times with Golden Friends!

Saying goodbye to friends is not exactly new territory but it did get

me thinking about my mom’s take on friendship. She shared her wisdom with me a few years ago, when I was mourning the loss of another friendship.

“In life, there are there are both road friends and heart friends. In your lifetime, will have many road friends, but you’ll be lucky to have even a handful of heart friends…those are the important  ones.”

. “How will I know the difference?” I asked.

“If I throw my whole heart into most of my friendships (which I do), aren’t they all heart friends?”

“Road friends,”she said, “are the ones you’ll meet along your journey through middle school, motherhood and midlife. They will make life a little less lonely for a time. They will share memories and mimosas, midlife madness, and more. You’ll find yourself drawn to them because you’ll share something in common; kids, summer camps, careers, and kindness. They will love you dearly and you them; for a time. They will fulfill their purpose in your life and you in theirs.”

“There may or may not be a dramatic ending, no break up or blow up. Just as you looked up one day and they were there, you may look up one day and they’ll be gone.”

It’s being ok with the later that I’m struggling with lately.

And heart friends? “Well, it will take years sometimes before you know which ones those will be. They will be the ones who will come into your life and never leave. You may not see them for months at a time, not talk to them as often as you would like, and then one day you’ll need them and they will be there. They will call you to check on you, be there in a crisis, and invest their time and energy in loving your kids as though they are their own. The two of you will pick up right where you left off and then you’ll understand that this one was meant to stay. It took me 43 years to finally start recognizing the difference between the two….

Pay attention to those who reach out to you, not just when they are in need, but when you are. They will make an effort to be a part of your life; not matter how busy they may be in their own.

Heart friends are sometimes miles away, but often closest in your heart.  So here’s to road friends and heart friends & to the wisdom & insight to know the difference. Thanks to both for making the journey more fun.

Confessions of a Screaming Mommy Part 2: Acknowledging Your Child’s Feelings (without neglecting your own)

Today we’ll file under the “no good, very bad day” category in parenting land. My soon to be 3 year old daughter is rounding the bend towards “independence” which easily translates as defiance. My least favorite toddler trait of all. Defiance by her usually leads to screaming by me – again. How does one get a strong willed child to cooperate? Well, the answer is clearly not “exert your parental power until she claims defeat”. Nope, lesson learned on that one. Eventually she might give in, or give up, but I’m the one who ends up apologizing. What’s the lesson in that? Certainly not what I was going for. Have to recalibrate my parenting map once again and set forth in the right direction. First thing: determine my destination…

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How’s your Summer going?

Okay Mamas, we are about four weeks into summer time here in Texas….

How’s your Summer going??

Hopefully you have had time to play at the pool, sleep in, maybe go see one of this summer’s great movies….

Mine, oh, thanks for wondering…..I am enjoying being able to sleep in a bit, having more time with my boys and more time to spend with friends. The boys enjoyed a couple camps to kick the summer off and now they are in the long haul at daycare when I am in the office. The movies this summer have us anxious for the next one and we love our long summer days playing in the pool. We are looking forward to our family vacation next week and the birth of my first nephew any day now. So far my summer is going pretty good! Continue reading

Preparing for Baby#3: Why it’s Nothing Like Before

32 weeks pregnant. I’m nearly finished brewing baby number 3 and yet I feel that I haven’t even fully grasped the concept that I have another life growing in me, a life soon to be living out in this world; In our home; In our family; In our lives, forever changed. The past 7 months feel like a blur of toddler taming, sibling refereeing, and kindergarten preparing. Who has time to think about swaddling a newborn amidst all that? I keep thinking I need to pull out my baby sleep manuals to refresh my baby mommy skills, but there it sits on the shelf covered in dust. I’m sure I’ll crack it open here soon. Maybe. Pregnancy the third time around is different, very different, and here’s why…

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YOGA? Y.ou O.nly G.ott A.

Breathe. 

It is more than a little ironic that Yoga is the activity I turn to on a daily basis to cope with the ups and downs of being a parent.  The more I think about it, the more I realize YOGA is the perfect metaphor for parenting.

I can almost hear each reader’s audible ugh as I type this post. YOGA….

Ya either love it, hate it, OR BOTH. Some of you haven’t tried it yet. Some of you never will. Kind of sums up having children does it?

 I can’t recall exactly when my love affair with yoga began, but let me assure you; it definitely was NOT love at first sight. Truth be told, my first date with yoga TOTALLY sucked.

First of all, before the date even started, Yoga wanted me to be quiet-STRIKE 1- I like to talk. Correction: I LOOOVE talking. Besides, how are we going to know if we like each other if we don’t talk?

Our love connection was off to a very rocky start.

Next,  YOGA proceeded to tell me to “be still”Seriously? Who the hell does this YOGA think he is? Doesn’t he realize I’m a mom & dishes don’t wash themselves? I’ve got things to do.  Furthermore, when I am still…I start thinking. I think too much…waay toooo much.  Strike 2.

The final strike came when Yoga wanted me to set an intention.  An intention for what? Staying alive? Fine. My intention was pretty much to try  super hard not to throw up or pass out OR die a heaping hot sweaty mess in the middle of all of these toned and tan & oddly serene strangers.

Ok…you win YOGA. I intend to survive this class.

As it turns out, I not only survived the first date; I  came back for more. 

YOGA and I  proceeded to “date” on and off for the next  few years. We even broke up a few times (my decision), before I realized that I really missed it..and loved it….and NEEEEEEEEEEEDED IT.

So now we are back together…at least for the time being. 

 

Anyway, I digress. My point was to tell you how lessons learned in YOGA mirror that of my experience in parenting.

YOGA ASKS THAT WE: 

  • Show up. Most days, making it onto your mat is the hardest part.
  • Set an intention to guide your practice.  Intentions are unique and change on a daily basis depending on your child’s sugar intake & the amount of caffeine you have ingested.
    OOOOMMM…Why is this so hard?

    Today, I want my children to be responsible, compassionate, passionate about learning, and kind. Tomorrow I intend to not screw them up too much. By Wednesday, my intention is usually not to throw up, pass out or die trying.

  • Focus inward…. How does the vision I have of myself, others and the world shape my choices as a parent.  How am I reacting to their successes & failures?  What parts of my own childhood am I replicating or running from and why?
  • Rest. It is a sign of strength. I repeat..RESTING IS ALWAYS A SIGN OF STRENGTH, never a sign of weakness.
  • Be flexible. The more rigid you are, the more it’s gonna hurt.
  • Focus on small daily progress.  The practice doesn’t change. You do.
  • Don’t look around. When you do, you give your energy away. This is not a competition & comparisons are a not helpful.
  • Be present.  Looking behind or ahead only distracts you from making the most each moment.
  • BREATHE…You Only Gott A Breathe…When you feel like giving up (& you will want to), you only gotta breathe.  As long as you are breathing and staying present, you are doing it right.

Other lessons from “Yoga”…

  • You will never do it perfectly no matter how hard you try. In fact, you will often fall. You will  look super weird and awkward…crazy even.  The good news is, so does everybody else!
  • It sometimes feels like it will never end.
  • It’s crowded & sweaty….Everyone else is working hard too.
  • Everyone has an opinion about how to do it & people are really quick to point out that you are doing it wrong. Tell them to shut the * up and get back on their own mat. 
  • You mostly go it alone-unless you count the other awkward, hot sweaty messes around you.
  • You may or may not have a teacher. If you do, you are lucky. But keep in mind, he or she is just a guide. …She/He doesn’t have all the answers either.

Namaste…the sweaty hot mess in me honors the sweaty hot mess in you.

 

How Was Your Day? New & Improved

There a few things I would like to do with my carpool line sign.

None of which are appropriate for publishing on this blog. Those of you who have read my previous posts know how much I adore waiting in the sweltering hot sun (sans my cell phone) to pick up my little cherub.
 If you feel the way I do about carpool line, you might be planning to use your sign as kindling for a summer bonfire or for the environmentally conscious reader, recycle it....but don't do that just yet.

I have an idea that beats recycling it….but first, let’s talk about the one part of carpool I actually do enjoy: greeting my  sweet little man after a long day at school. 

Typically I ask the same standard question as he climbs into the back seat: “How Was Your Day?” Only to hear him mumble back the even more standard answer: “Good.”  

You know the drill… I continue to hopelessly probe with questions that usually end in “YES or NO”….and if your child is anything like mine, the token answer for “What did you learn at school today?” is “Nothing”.

NOTHING?? What??? REALLY???  I know for a fact that you learned A LOT today and I know that your teacher is amazing… So this answer is just not gonna fly with me today.

Back side of Carpool LIne sign
Front side of carpool line sign

After pondering the uber frustrating carpool phenomenon of “I did nothing today!”, I decided to change my approach for next year.  I have found a few more specific questions that I plan to have conveniently pasted on the back of the car pool sign, so I can get the real scoop about his day. Yes..some of the questions are gross…BUT you might actually learn A LOT by asking them.. Maybe even more than you bargained for.

If you aren’t crafty, (or don’t own a laminator), I have another suggestion that has helped me a time or two….

PITS AND PEAKS!!!

When your kiddo climbs into the back seat, ask him/her to tell you about their PIT (the absolute worst thing that happened during the day) and their PEAK (the absolute best thing that happened).

You will be amazed by how much information this simple question yields. It is at least a great way to get a conversation started.  Happy last day of school!

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