Have you ever had a really long to-do list, but you’re avoiding doing anything because you don’t want to face the endless barrage of questions that will come from your 5 year old about said to-dos? It’s just me? Oh, okay. I’ll just go back to procrastinating on Facebook.
As I stated previous, Cecilia is very TWO, and the last few months have been challenging. It seems like every minute she’s trying to explore her world and test boundaries. It occurred to me the other day that this is when the real parenting begins. I’m not saying that parents of infants aren’t real parents, but rather, they aren’t quite “parenting”. With babies, the main goal is to keep them alive and thriving - take care of their needs by nurturing their bodies. But when they become toddlers, especially older toddlers, you have to start nurturing their souls, and that’s when it gets really hard (at least in my opinion). Mending a little body is much easier than mending a little soul.
I’ve found this responsibility to be overwhelming at times. It’s very tricky to find the right balance of discipline and openness that creates both a structured and empowering environment. How do you control and correct a two year old’s behavior without risking harm to their fiery spirit? How do you build their self-confidence while teaching them to value others? How do create an environment that is loving and open while still maintaining individuality and space? It’s all so new and different from the baby years. Yes, those were hard, especially when I couldn’t figure out why my small child was crying, but I think these years are harder and more long lasting. At least I’ve finally shaken that “new parent anxiety”.
One thing I’ve been trying to do is assign Cecilia tasks without making them commands. (The commands weren’t working!) So instead of saying, “Find your shoes,” I’ll say, “Will you help me get ready? What shoes do you want to wear?” Cecilia loves to be part of whatever I’m doing, and she loves choices. Does it always work? Nope. Does it usually work? Nope. But even if it has the same results as just saying “Find your shoes,” it still fosters a more independent and loving environment, and it’s just as easy to say.
We’ve tried giving Cecilia some independence when it comes to her clothing. Some days we let her choose between two options, but if we have more time (a lot more time), we let her have mostly free reign on her wardrobe (no jammies to school, which gets requested often). Today Cecilia asked to wear her Wiggles shirt from the Wiggles concert that she saw with her grandparents. I’ll be honest, it’s not my favorite shirt. It’s a bit androgynous, and I like to put my cute girl in cute girly clothing. But, eh, it’s just a shirt. When it was nearly time to leave for school, I asked her to go find some socks while I put on my shoes. She was gone for quite a while so I figured she got distracted, but when I found her, she was sitting in front of her sock draw and exclaimed “I got socks!” Well, almost, kiddo. She actually put on leg warmers. You know what? I let her wear them. It won’t hurt sending her to school with leg warmers over her pants and taking them off might hurt her self-esteem. I did, however, put some socks on her too.
I’m sorry for the absence. To be honest, I’m having a hard time managing my family, responsibilities, and all the things I want to accomplish. Life is busy, which is exactly how I like it, but it causes things to slip through the cracks, like my blog and vacuuming all the dog hair out from under the furniture. (If you visit, PLEASE do not look under the beds.) Since I last posted, Cecilia turned two. We spent the weekend celebrating, holding two parties, and hosting visitors. It was a great time, and Cecilia really soaked it all in. She’s becoming a very bubbly, sweet, and funny girl. It’s awesome watching her grow. It’s hard to believe she’s two.
But then there are some days that it’s not so hard to believe that she’s two. Rather she’s TWO. T-W-O. And everything that comes along with that age. Not only is she starting to talk in full sentences (”Momma’s car’s hot.) and learning her colors, shapes, and letters, she’s also developed selective hearing, stubbornness, and disobedience. The last two days, I’ve had to enforce timeouts, which is something I’ve never had to do before. In general, when she acts up, I try to remove her from the situation, acknowledge her feelings, and tell her why that behavior is unacceptable. But when she does something like hit Lucy after I tell her not to, I know she’s testing boundaries, and I have to make sure to enforce them.
It’s hard. Very hard. Especially when I know that I’ve chosen to take this on as my job-all day, every day. I did have a moment today when I debated going back to a paid job, one sans child. Then I realized that I would just be passing the buck and assuming that someone else would do as good as a job as I am. I know that’s not the right choice. I know I need to suck it up and parent consistently. It’s hard being a mother. Part of me would like to fast forward through this time, but then I realize that I would miss out on so much. Cecilia is an absolute joy, even when she’s saying “Potty” to manipulate me.
I’m sitting in my driveway with a sleeping baby in my backseat and listening to a woodpecker attack one of the neighborhood trees. My laptop is picking up the house’s wifi and playing my favorite type of music on Pandora. It’s a sunny day, and the car is blocking us from the chilly wind. It’ so incredibly peaceful. I know a lot of folks would criticize me because I haven’t been able to master my child’s sleeping habits and the fear of an overly tired, hyper toddler is enough to keep me from moving her out of her carseat, but I don’t care. For me, the chaos and stress of a forced nap (and usually resulting in an unsuccessful attempt of said nap) is not worth it. She’s small. She won’t sleep in the car for every nap. Life is good. Besides, if she napped inside, I couldn’t watch the wind pick up leaves, twirl them around, and place them back on the ground. I couldn’t enjoy the winter sun on my skin. I would feel obligated to do laundry, make beds, and put away toys. When everything is said and done, a moments peace and balance is more enjoyable than an empty kitchen sink.
I suspect I’m going to be feeling my way through this whole parenting thing until the day I die. I just hope that it becomes less of an every day thing and more of an every once in a while thing. This year, Valentine’s Day was one of those moments.
Cecilia’s teachers sent a note home a couple weeks ago to announce that they would be having a Valentine’s party. Cecilia had been asked to bring Goldfish crackers. This assignment made me laugh. I guess it had become obvious to Cecilia’s teachers that we keep those around ALL THE TIME since every lunch that I packed contained Goldfish crackers (but only the Parmesan flavor because she won’t eat the cheddar. You know, the cheddar ones that you can buy in bulk or whole wheat or in festive colors. The importance of convenience, cost saving, and extra dietary fiber is lost on my kid.) I had just stocked up on ten bags of Goldfish crackers a couple weeks prior when they went on sale for $1 a bag, and thankfully, we still had a couple bags left.
So Thursday morning, I packed Cecilia’s lunch and packed her school bag with the crackers. We had some time to kill, like we do every morning since she wakes up at 5am, and I just piddled around the house. And then suddenly, it dawned on me. The teachers’ note about the party contained a list of Cecilia’s classmates’ names. I had thought it strange since it had a list with their food assignments on it,, and in addition to that last, there was a list of names. Oh My God. I was supposed to buy Valentine’s Day cards.
I looked at the time. 8:15. Shit. She’s suppose to be at school between 8:45 and 9. So I hurriedly grab the lunch and the bag, grab my jacket and Cecilia’s jacket, and run to the baby, who is engrossed in the Wiggles. She starts to fuss. I think she knew it was a school day, or maybe she was devastated by the idea of leaving Anthony Wiggle. I don’t know, but I didn’t have time to figure it out. I get her in the car, and she protests all the way there. I struggle to get her buckled in her car seat and grab whatever toy I could find in hopes of it calming her down so I don’t have to hear her scream on the wat to Target. Nothing makes an already harried trip to the store more stressful than a screaming baby.
I get in the car and back it out of the driveway. Just as we are turning off our street and it looks like we are going to make it with just enough time, I hear it. William Tell’s Overture. In hopes of keeping Cecilia happy and me less rushed, I had handed her a musical toy, and even though it had four different song selections on it, she managed to replay William Tell over and over and over. As I waited for traffic to thin so I could turn. When I got stuck behind the really slow country bumpkin. While lost in the cars trying to turn into the new Chick-Fil-A. biddy-bum-biddy-bum-biddy-bum-bum-bum, biddy-bum-biddy-bum-biddy-bum-bum-bum, bum-biddy-bum-biddy-bum-bum-bum, biddy-BUM-biddy-bum-bum-bum
We did make it to Target fairly quickly since it’s close to our house, and I was able to purchase two small gifts for her teacher and cheap cards for her classmates, address them in the car, and get her to school on time. The real kicker was when we arrived in her classroom, and half of the kids were out sick. Nice.
Thankfully, I think I have a better grasp on the whole Valentine’s thing now, at least when it comes to classmates’ gifts. I’m sure there will be a February day in the future when Cecilia comes home with tears streaming down her face because I sent her balloons instead of a half dozen pink roses.
We took the kids outside to play in the snow today. They both seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. Well, Cecilia did until I pushed her down our small hill in a laundry basket. She wasn’t a fan of that. Lucy, on the other hand, scampered over the snow with delight. She would run around and take quick turns, shooting snow high into the air. It was quite a sight to see. You’d almost think she was meant to be a colder climate dog until you realized she hasn’t pooped in over 24 hours. I guess squatting over the cold stuff intimidates her.
It’s hard for me to admit this, but the last two months have been really difficult. Cecilia has reached a new level of curiosity, and she’s always on the go. I feel like I’m constantly struggling to maintain the house, get my errands run, and take care of my other responsibilities while entertaining her. Throw in a crazy, whiny dog, and some days I just want to cry. I feel like I’m not doing any of my jobs well because I’m never able to fully focus on just one task. Don’t get me wrong. I realize that multitasking is part of life, but when it takes an entire day to clean up the kitchen because a little girl is pulling on my leg or the dog has run off, it’s hard to give Cecilia the attention that I want to (or exercise the over-excited dog).
With Cecilia reaching the 18 month mark on December 28th, I decided it was time to enroll her in a day school two days a week. I was really ashamed of that decision. So many of my friends told me that they enrolled their kids in preschool or a mom’s day out program at two. While they were trying to be supportive to me, all I felt was guilty for denying my daughter the additional six months at home. I felt guilty because I couldn’t handle my job as a stay-at-home mom. I felt guilty because I knew Cecilia would cry because I wasn’t there.
But I also knew it was the right thing to do. Even if placing my daughter in day school at one made me a questionable mom, I knew keeping her at home and denying myself a break would prevent me from being the mom I wanted to be. Plus it would give me time to finish my errands while someone, whose sole job is to entertain the children in her classroom, challenges her in just the way she needs.
And when I dropped her off Tuesday, things went incredibly well. I kept my phone on me at all times and expected a call telling me that she was inconsolable, but my phone never rang. In fact, she didn’t even notice that I was gone for at least 30 minutes after I left (per her teachers). According to her daily report, she oscillated between busy, happy play and fussiness. She also didn’t nap for them, but that was no surprise. When I arrived to pick her up, I expected her to come running to me. Instead, she looked up from her activity, brought a toy to me, and then went back to play some more. I think she likes it there.
And my first day without her, I did pretty well too. I did wander around town for the first fifteen minutes or so because I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. But I managed to go to Home Depot to get gardening starter supplies, the grocery store, and the hardware store. I also cleaned the house from top to bottom and worked out.
When I got Cecilia home, she nursed and fell asleep in my lap. I didn’t try to move her. Instead I admired my girl while enjoying a clean house. It was a relaxed feeling. I’ve come to realize that I’m just not meant to be the kind of stay-at-home mom who homeschools her five children, and I’ve accepted that. My goals had been accomplished. My baby was happy. Momma was happy. I feel secure that, despite all the guilt, I made the right decision.
Several women have told me that I don’t act like a first time mom. I don’t know if that’s a good, a bad thing, or a lazy thing. In general, I just don’t overreact when Cecilia gets into stuff or falls down. I figure that’s part of growing up, and if she’s in danger or starts to cry, I’m right there. It’s just really important to me to teach her independence and resiliency. Of course, things can get a bit messy when your let your daughter explore freely and do things like eat dirt.
My kid is refusing to nap today. She’s a bundle of happy, babbling energy, but I’m tired. And I’m getting angry. I hate that I’m getting angry. But I am. I can admit to that. I’m sitting in her dark nursery listening to the whoosh of the sound machine while she toddles around making a bigger mess of my already messy house.
I realize some people would frown on my frustration (which is just another word for anger, by the way). But I think it’s a normal reaction. The key things is that I’m not acting on my emotion. However, admitting to it helps me process those feelings. Personally, I think it’s unhealthy to pretend everything is rainbows and buttercups all the time. Those people, my friends, kick dogs behind closed doors. Or they’re cutters. I also believe it’s important for me to show Cecilia that I feel frustration and I don’t behave destructively because of it.
Unless completely doped up on Zanax, all parents experience this. However, it’s a real occupational hazard for stay-at-home moms. After all, if my boss spends all day screaming at me, my only alternative is to grit my teeth and bear it or let her suck on my boob. Plus, I don’t get to leave it and go home. She’s always around. Then I get to experience mom’s guilty. Of course, working moms have mom’s guilty too. Theirs might be for leaving their child with a daycare provider, but mine (and other stay-at-home-moms) feel it when we get angry and worry that we’re inadequate mothers. Basically, I think women spend motherhood wavering between unconditional love and horrible guilt, and the two play off of one another.
I’m not sure where I’m going with this post. I guess I’m trying to say that I feel anger sometimes, and I feel guilty for it too. But it’s okay to feel that way. You’ll always be inadequate in your mind because no one has the time or energy to be the ideal mother (or father). Let’s all grab a beer or glass of wine and relax.
By the way, I feel better now. Thanks for listening.
Last Monday, I joined two of my new gal pals from my moms group at zumba class. Have you ever heard of zumba? It’s an intense cardio workout based on a variety of latin and hiphop dances. It’s an intense hour-long class that works and tones every major muscle group in your body. I was really looking forward to attending because I’ve really reached a fitness rut. As someone who used to workout every day for at least an hour without fail, I can’t seem to get to the gym, and the only way I get there is to agree to meet up with someone.
However, at the same time, I was really dreading the class because I have no rhythm. Like seriously, none. I was in marching band my sophomore year of high school, and I faked playing the whole time because I couldn’t march and play. Despite that, I still found myself out of step. I haven’t been friends with these girls very long, and I’m still trying to sort of impress them. I figured I would either 1. completely embarrass myself where I’m too ashamed to see them again, or 2. prove that I’m a big goober that’s worth keeping around.
Despite my fears, I had a good time. I was completely lost most of that hour. Even though there were 50+ women in the gym, I’m pretty sure the instructor kept looking at me like I was a lost puppy. Maybe that’s because I would just jump up and down with the beat of the music when I couldn’t follow along with the steps. I did have a good time, especially during the parts where you shake your hips. I know I got that part right.
There’s just a few things worth mentioning about that night. First, I realized that I really need to get out of the house regularly on a weeknight to do something with my friends. I rarely do that because I’m afraid that it will interupt our regular dinner/bathtime/bedtime schedule. However, Cecilia is getting to a point that she doesn’t need me to be there to go to sleep. It’s good for my soul, and in return, it’s good for Cecilia. Second, that particular zumba class is at a church. It’s one of their ministries. Despite being in a church, it’s a full-blown zumba class. The only difference is that you pray before you shake your ass. Third, I thought I had completely recovered from giving birth a year ago, but it appears that I need to do some kegel exercises less I wear diaper before my next zumba session.