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.

			

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!

			

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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Confessions of Screaming Mommy: 3 Steps to Regaining Control & Letting Go of “being in control”

Okay, you got me. I will be the first to admit that I am guilty, from time to time, of losing my temper and yelling at my kids. Okay, fine. Screaming at my kids, actually. I hate that I do it, it sucks when it happens, and I feel guilty for days following. Miserable, I tell you. Just miserable. Feeling this terrible about a behavior begs the question, “why don’t you just stop?” Well, just go ahead and make me sound like an addict, why don’t ya? Actually, maybe you’re onto something here….

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REST…Why is it so Damn Hard to Take a Break?

 

What is it with women and resting (or should I say not resting)? I’m sure there are women out there who are adept at taking it easy when in need, but for most (all) of the women I know resting equates to staying in your pj’s while you clean the house, wash the laundry, fold the laundry, grocery shop, cook, and clean again. Then when that’s all done you “rest” for 15 minutes on the couch before remembering you need to pack lunches, iron clothes, and prep the coffee maker for the next day ahead. I need a rest just thinking about this “restful” day.

So what is it that makes putting off and putting down the to-do list so damn hard?


I’m only going to scratch the surface on this one today. I plan to write much more on this after a little further research. I am curious to know what prevents you from really resting. Not just when you’re shaking from a fever or vomiting from the latest stomach bug your kid brought home. That’s recovery, not rest.

I’m talking about the kind of rest you give yourself because you’ve been doing and giving to everyone else all day or all week and you realize your mental and physical fuel is running on empty. Or, the kind of rest when you’ve been offering your ear to your sister, your mom, your best friend, your husband, your co-workers, your kids, whomever and your now at the point where the only reasonable response you can mutter is “Mmmhhhmmmm. Ohhhh. Ahhhh. Hmmmm.”

We all need rest, but we don’t all take it. Usually it takes a collapse in immunity, emotional control, or physical stability to wake us up to the fact that we’ve overdone it, again.

So, please, help me in this quest of trying to understand why we push, why we ignore, and why we flat out refuse to give ourselves the rest and care that we would most certainly recommend to anyone else. Share with me your experience and your struggle in the ongoing battle with rest. I’m all ears.

			

Connecting with Your Kids: Why They Need It & Why You Need It, Too.

Here I am again – It’s a Sunday morning (my kids favorite time of day to throw their wildest tantrums). So I’m trying to breathe deep and remember why I don’t want to scream and yell when they are well, screaming and yelling. All I want to do is have my coffee and eat some oatmeal. Is that really too much to ask? According to a toddler, yes it is. Much, much to much to ask.

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Change: Means Sometimes Saying Goodbye

Change Change. It is a’comin. We are nearing the end of a school year and for most that means saying goodbye to familiar faces (young and old), comfortable places (known for one year or many), multiple school assignments, drawings, paintings, and projects that were once the subject of much debate, success, or demise. And from here, we look onward to a new school year. Change, it is a’comin.


At least we still have summer…


I’m especially aware of this time of change as my oldest child will be heading to kindergarten in the Fall. I thought I was ready for this until I went to register him at the elementary school.  At first I felt excited about the newness of the building, the pretty flowers out front, and the friendliness of the office staff. Then, I glanced down the hallways…. the big, long hallways. Those are too big for my kid, I thought to myself. He’ll feel lost. Overwhelmed. Scared. Alone. Certainly they’ll let me stay with him through his whole first day. Yes, certainly they will.

At least we still have summer….

I walked away from the school feeling a little heavier than when I walked in and I realized: Change. It is a ‘comin.

Change is hard. For me at least. Everyone who knows me knows I suck at change. Change, even for a 5 year old, means saying goodbye. Goodbye to the familiar and Hello to the unknown. Even the most exciting of changes means some kind of goodbye. Even when you can’t wait to get away from the familiar, it is still goodbye.  Is some change easier to manage than others? Sure. Though, even in the best of cases you are leaving a part of yourself behind. Sometimes you must. Because the new place you’re going doesn’t have room for the old.

You can’t hang on and move on at the same time.

 Change is hard. It may feel sad. Even when it’s good. Tears of sadness may be mixed with tears of gratitude. Confused salty tears. Such is the taste of change.

But, at least we still have summer.

Mindful Parenting: An Imperfect Mom’s Guide to Raising Kids.

 Mindful Parenting

Have I mentioned yet that I’m currently pregnant with baby #3? Have I told you already that I’m going to have 3 kids? Forgive my redundancy here, I’m still trying to let this sink in…


I always wanted three kids. I told my husband this from the time we first started dating, and I wouldn’t let it go when he tried to convince me I was crazy after our second child was born. And now that the act is under way, I feel pretty close to nuts. I mean, the two kids I have already keep me right on the edge of insanity each and every day. How could I possibly handle three?

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