Tag Archives: Parenting

When the Wheels Fall Off the Wagon

30 Oct

Bear with me on this post…it’s long…it starts off sounding like I’m telling you my child is perfect but I promise it’s an honest post about parenting.

I have an inherently good child. She is kind. She is thoughtful. She is more compassionate than most adults I come across. She sees the beauty in places I’m too busy to look. She makes us cards, writes us notes and is quick to tell us what great parents we are. She skipped the terrible twos. We breezed through the trying threes. I can only remember two tantrums she ever had by age 5. I did not take this for granted. I was not smug about it. Because I knew the wheels would fall off the wagon at some point…they have.

In the past few months she has become defiant and if I’m being honest…bratty at times. I understand she’s her own person. I know she has an opinion, she is, after all, my child. I’m okay with that. I’m okay with her voicing her opinion if she does so with respect. However, lately she’s been downright defiant and disrespectful. Not all the time but enough that it needed to be addressed. Mike will tell her to do something as simple as getting in the bath. If she responds, it’s usually with, “NO! I don’t want to!” Most of the time she just ignores any request that is made of her. It’s frustrating and becoming more frequent. She acts as if she’s running the show and she kind of is.

Then comes the whining, the begging, the negotiating and if none of those work…the complete meltdown shows up to the party. And all of this usually comes in the morning, when I’m on my own with her. I ask her to brush her teeth. She says no. I tell her to brush her teeth…we have to go…we’re going to be late. She responds with, “If you give me $5, I’ll brush my teeth.” I say no. She says, “You’re the meanest mom in the world!” I get increasingly frustrated and repeatedly ask her to brush her teeth. It usually ends in me yelling and her crying and I’m brushing her teeth for her so we can get out the door. Brushing the teeth is just the example I’m using here…but it’s pretty much anything we ask her to do. Get dressed, do her homework, clean up, take a bath, turn off the tv. You name it, the answer is no and she’s ready to fight with how unfair we are.

I cannot live like this. Mike cannot live like this. Ava cannot live like this. Our house has become a war zone in the mornings. Half the time she’s crying before we leave the house and I’m crying after I drop her off at school. I hate that I’ve raised my voice and then the mom guilt kicks in. I’m sure that I’ve damaged her psyche beyond repair…of course I know this isn’t true…most of our interactions are fun and loving. I know we’re good parents. I know we praise her and love her and give her the attention she deserves. I know we provide a stable and safe environment where we encourage her to learn and grow and love.

I’ve reached the end of my rope. I know I have to regain control. She talks back and is defiant because we have allowed it to happen. I don’t think we were even aware at first…we never experienced tantrums or defiance at 2 or 3. At first when she started acting out we figured she was tired or it was a bad day or she was transitioning to first grade. It never occurred to us that we were creating a pattern. We ask her to do something, she says no, we repeat, she says no, we raise our voice, she either does it or we do it for her. So basically she knew that until we raised our voice she still had time to continue negotiating and that we weren’t serious yet. We first decided to start with a marble jar reward system and it worked for the first week brilliantly…the second week was mediocre…this week it didn’t much matter to her if she got a marble when she brushed her teeth. Although on Friday when it’s time for allowance I’m sure there will be a giant meltdown because she wants more money that she simply didn’t earn.

So I found this parenting book on Amazon that had received rave reviews. I bought it and read it in a few short days. Mike read the parts that he needed to read. We discussed it last night and the plan went into action. Basically the book works on an “If ______, then_______” strategy. So I asked her to please brush her teeth before bed. She said, “No. I don’t want to.” So I told her, “If you do not brush your teeth now, we won’t read your library book before bed.” She said, “I don’t care.” What she really meant is, “You’ve said this before and when I throw a big enough fit and you’re tired of hearing me scream you give in.” I could hear it in her voice. She simply did not believe me. She had no reason to as we’ve both been pretty bad at following through with consequences.

So she didn’t brush her teeth. When it was time for bed she went to get her library book. I calmly told her that we wouldn’t be reading the library book tonight because she didn’t brush her teeth. I told her to use the restroom and come to bed. I heard her in the bathroom…first she brushed her teeth, then she flossed, then she used her tongue scraper. I honestly felt bad for her. Surely she thought that being this thorough would earn her the privilege of reading the library book because the girl never flosses without a fight. She came into her room and said, “I brushed my teeth, flossed and scraped my tongue. Can we read my library book now?” I told her, “I’m sorry sweetie but we can’t read your library book. I told you earlier that if you didn’t brush your teeth when I asked that we couldn’t read the book. You chose not to listen so you don’t get the privilege tonight.” You guys…World War III broke out.

It was 41 minutes of her crying, pleading, begging, offering me money…she started at a dollar and was up to a million dollars within minutes. I ignored all of it. I stayed with her but would not respond to any of her requests or what soon became demands. She told me I was the meanest mom in the world. She told me that I was being unfair. She just kept hurtling things and I just kept quiet. It was the hardest 41 minutes of my life. After about 30 minutes I told her that if she didn’t stop crying that I would leave her room and give her time to calm down. She kept crying. I left. She stopped crying. I went back in and she was in her bed reading the library book! How I remained calm at this point is beyond me. But I did.

I asked her for the book. She handed it over and then said, “It doesn’t matter. When you leave I’ll just get another book off my bookshelf.” I said, “Actually you won’t because I’m taking all the books out of your room.” She said, “You can’t do that.” I said, “I most certainly can.” I called Mike in and we started moving the books out of her room. She was shocked and just said, “Okay mommy. I get it. You can move all of the books out of my room. Please stop.”

We moved quite a few of the books out of her room. Enough to make the point. It would be so easy to just read her the book and have this whole thing end. I know that. Mike knows that. But now I also know that is where the problem originated from. If she doesn’t get her way she cries until she does. She tries every trick in the book. She wins every stand off. And we just can’t do this anymore. This is not the way I want to parent. I don’t want us to be angry with each other. Finally…after 41 minutes I walk into her room. She says, “I’m sorry I didn’t do what I was supposed to do when you asked because now I don’t get to read my library book.” I hugged her and told her I was sorry she didn’t do what she was supposed to do either but now it was time for bed. I told her that I loved her. She asked if she got up and did her morning chores before school if we could read the library book before we left the house. I said, “If you do your chores and are ready to go by 7am, then I will read your library book before we leave.” She said she understood.

Then…she broke my heart a little. I put her to bed every night. Last night she asked me to leave. She said she would rather put herself to bed. I went and sat in the bathroom attached to her bedroom and cried while texting a good friend who knows all about parenting and the challenges it brings…a woman who is honest and real…a woman who’s parenting style I admire….a woman who says, “I’ve been there.” But the most profound thing she said to me last night was, “[Some parents] are the type that always have to hold things together. I just can’t connect to that. Our vulnerabilities are what bring us together. I wish more people understood that.” I wish more people understood that too. Being a good parent doesn’t mean having perfectly behaved children. If children were perfectly behaved then parenting would be useless. To me being a good parent means continuously seeking out new ways if old ways aren’t working. It’s having the courage to reach out to friends and be vulnerable. It’s knowing that sometimes the right way isn’t always the easy way. We have many more beautiful moments in our family than bad moments…but when we reach times of struggle it’s nice to know that there’s other moms out there who get it.

Eventually I heard a little voice say, “Mama? Can you please come back? I tried to go to sleep alone but my bed isn’t the same when you’re not here.” I may or may not have done a flying leap from the bathroom into her bed.

I know this isn’t the last battle we’ll have. I know there will be more. But I’m hopeful. I know I can be strong when she’s pushing every button I have. I know I can hold my ground and remain calm. I know I can manage my emotions even when hers are out of control. I can be the example she needs when every emotion of hers is overflowing.

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Take Another Little Piece of My Heart Now Baby

18 Jul

The story about how my daughter broke my heart…

Ava lost her first tooth yesterday. Yesterday morning she woke up and said her tooth was really “wobbly.” I checked…sure enough it was. I thought I had time. I thought it wouldn’t come out for a few days at least. It wasn’t that wobbly. Mike took her to swim lessons and she told him that her tooth felt really weird and that she kept trying to push it back in but it wasn’t working. Sitting on the bench, waiting to get in the pool Mike hears her say, “OH! My tooth just came out!” She hands it to him. I get this goofy, toothless picture at work and all I can think is, “My baby girl is growing up!”

I posted this picture on Facebook and immediately realize I am not prepared for the tooth fairy to visit. Apparently the tooth fairy of 2012 brings fairy dust and gold coins? I did not know this. So after the wee one goes to bed, the rumor is that the tooth fairy was hard at work trying to do more than just slip a $5 bill under Ava’s pillow. I think the tooth fairy did a fairly decent job with the limited supplies she had.

It’s a milestone losing your first tooth. I remember losing mine. I remember being so excited for the tooth fairy to come. As a parent of a child who loses their first tooth, it’s also a milestone. She lost her baby tooth…her baby tooth! She lost the tooth that kept me up at night when she was a baby. It’s these little markers of babyhood that keep falling away and reminding me that my baby girl isn’t as much baby as she is girl now.

And then there was this morning. She woke up excited to see what the tooth fairy left. We read the note and she decided she would use the money to buy herself a toy. We got ready for school. Usually when I drop her off in the morning, I walk her all the way to the classroom and give her a hug and a kiss. She hugs for a long time…she’s not a big fan of drop-off. She doesn’t like me to leave her. Until this morning.

We walked through the gate and another one of her classmates was walking in at the same time. I went to the office to sign her in and she kept walking. I stopped and said, “Ava, aren’t you going to wait for me?” She said, “No mom. I’m going to walk with my friend.” Watching her walk away I said, “Well, aren’t you going to say goodbye?” And she glanced over her right shoulder and nonchalantly said, “Bye mom!” And she kept on walking.

I stood there staring at her back. Making sure she wasn’t going to turn back around. Making sure she wasn’t going to run back for a hug. Making sure she was okay. I worried she would realize in 2o minutes that we didn’t say goodbye…at least not in our traditional way. I walked into the office a little teary-eyed with the other child’s mom and she said, “And so it begins…”And my heart was torn. On the one hand I was so proud of her independence, and on the other I thought, “There goes my baby.” Two big milestones in a 24 hour period…my heart can only take so much.

And I do feel like this is how it happens with Ava. With each milestone she reaches, she gains more confidence in being a big kid and she lets go of me a little more. And I know that this is the way it’s supposed to be. I know that my parents watched me grow and gain independence until one day I was 32 with a daughter of my own. They gave me the freedom to grow and let me know that it was okay to let go a little at a time. But how they dealt with it, well, I’m still trying to figure that one out because my heart hurts a little today.

It’s Not Impossible

12 Jul

The other night during our normal bedtime routine Ava climbed across me on the bed and with the most defeated voice said, “Mom, I wish I could love you as much as you love me, but that’s impossible.” I asked her why she thought it was impossible and she said, “Well, because you made me.” My heart melted into the biggest puddle in the world.

I replied, “Well sweetheart, you are the only person in the whole world who knows what my heartbeat sounds like from the inside.” Her eyes got really big and she said, “That’s true mom!” Then curiosity set in and she said, “When I was in your belly did I grow in your bones and stuff?” I told her no…that she stayed in a special place in my belly. Then she asked, “Mom, when I get a baby in my belly will people think I’m fat and make fun of me?” Oh my sweet girl…I worry about how much she worries. So I said, “No baby…people will come up to you and want to rub your belly and they will tell you how beautiful you are and that you’re glowing.” With eyes wide she asked, “I’m going to glow like a lantern when I’m pregnant?!?!? Really, mom, is this true?!?!”And I dissolve into a fit of giggles and she quickly followed suit.

I love these conversations. The ones where she has no idea the depth with which they touch me and yet can end on such a light-hearted note. I love the ease at which she switches from serious to funny…I love these moments I share with her. I know she might not remember them…that’s why I share them here. I hope that one day she can look back at her life documented and know how very much I love being her mama. That all of these little things are what makes up the big love I have for her.

What Were They Thinking?

21 Jun

“You’re so ugly, your kid should kill themselves.” Klein said her son committed suicide 10 years ago. 

I sat down to eat my lunch today and thought I’d catch up on the news. I really hate reading the news because it gets my blood boiling. Especially today. I’m sure by now most of you have heard about the 68-year-old school bus monitor who was bullied by a bunch of middle-school kids on their bus ride home. If you haven’t, her name is Karen Huff Klein, and you can read all about it here. I was beyond disgusted and beyond angry when I saw this and heard the horrible things they were saying to this woman. I felt ashamed of kids I didn’t know and embarrassed for how she must have felt. The suicide comment above must have hit so close to home for her that it made me cry.

It is incidents like these that make me so worried my own daughter and school. Because this is happening. This bullying is real. The sheer fact that there are so many avenues to bully people now just overwhelms me. Four different kids took videos of what they did to this woman and then decided to share it with the world. As if being bullied wasn’t humiliating enough, now the whole world knows. And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it will open the door for us, as parents, to talk to our children and reiterate what is appropriate behavior and what is not.

How this woman handled it with such dignity is beyond me. I felt rage and wanted to scream at them for her. I wanted to yank those kids off the bus and march them up to their homes and have a talk with their parents. This is a 68-year-old woman and I’m sure their words hurt very much. At 68 I think she possesses the maturity and understanding to know her life is worth living. That she shouldn’t kill herself. But what about a 10-year-old? This is what scares me.

I don’t know what I would do if Ava were on the receiving end of treatment like this. Lord knows I’ve bought a few books to try and learn how to raise a happy, confident girl. I hope that if that day ever comes where she’s bullied or sees someone being bullied, she stands up and stops it. I hope that she is always 100% certain that her life is worth living. I do know this, if she EVER treated an elderly person (or peer) the way the children in this video treated Ms. Klein, she better be prepared for eight hours a day, five days a week volunteering at the local nursing home over summer break. She better be prepared to change bedpans and get to know the people who have come before her; people who have shaped this world she lives in.

I don’t know the types of homes these children came from. For all I know, they have great parents who are really, really angry at them right now. I can only hope that’s the case. I hope that the parents make these children right what they’ve done wrong. I hope that these children are taught a lesson they will never forget. I hope we are all taught a lesson we will never forget. Treat people with respect.

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” – Haile Selassie

What I Want for Mother’s Day

10 May

Mother’s Day is coming. I know this because I get a dozen emails a day about sending mom flowers, buying mom the perfect gift or taking mom to dinner. I also get asked by the husband what I want for Mother’s Day at least once a day. My answer is simple, even if it might not be what most moms wish for on Mother’s Day.

I want to spend the day with my friends and family. I want to have a bbq. I want to cook for them. I want to open good wine. I want to turn on some classic rock. I want to sit outside in the sunshine. I want to laugh. I want to be with the people I love. I want them to feel loved. I want them to feel cherished.

Because it really does take a village. I have not done this alone. First and foremost, I have an AMAZING partner. I can’t even begin to explain the amount of daily tasks Mike takes on around the house…I am blessed beyond belief. From bath-time, to packed lunches, to parks, to homework and dinner. The man is truly a partner in all things, especially parenting. He is hands-on. He is involved. And 99% of the time I don’t have to ask for help. I am lucky to have him. And sometimes I can’t help but hear this lyric in the back of my mind, “I have been blessed. With so much more than I deserve…”

And then there’s my family saving the day with sleepovers and play dates. Seriously…I have had to leave Ava with a babysitter once in 5 1/2 years. Do you know how much peace I get in the fact that she’s with people who truly love her? I’m so grateful for that. I am grateful for the advice, perspective and experience that each set of parents bring to the table. I am grateful to have a family that is supportive without being overbearing. I’m grateful that I can pick up the phone and say, “What did you do when _____ happened?” and always have an answer. I’m lucky, but more importantly Ava is lucky to be so loved.

Then there’s my girlfriends. Always ready and willing to help regardless of when or why. I’ve dropped Ava at their houses at 7am on Saturdays so I can get my long training run in. They have picked her up from school when I got stuck in traffic. They offer to bring soup when I’m sick and bring dinner when Mike is out of town. They are always there to offer advice and to help when I need it. But mostly they are there to listen when I’m trying to juggle it all. And sometimes, when all else fails and I drop all the balls, they show up with a bottle of wine and a big, fat hug.

So yes, what I want for Mother’s day is time with the people who help me on the journey…because I haven’t done this alone. I want a good playlist, phenomenal food, great friends, my family, sunshine and a good bottle of red. I want to say thanks.

A Letter to My Daughter

4 Nov

There are so many things I would love to tell you about yourself. How could I ever possibly put into words all that I feel for you? Lately you are so inquisitive…always asking questions and always wanting to know more. What amazes me is that when you don’t understand something I’ve explained, you will ask me to explain each word you didn’t understand. Not the whole thing…just the words you didn’t understand and then you will try to comprehend it on your own. And sometimes when I’m not sure if you understood something fully you surprise me weeks later by repeating it with comprehension of what you’re saying. You, my little doodle-bug, amaze me.

Today you asked how we get goose bumps. I should have known that my response of, “We get them when we get cold,” wouldn’t work. You said you knew when we got them but you wanted to know how. You handed me my phone and said, “Here mom, look it up on your phone.” We were already running late but I could tell you weren’t going to let me get away with not doing it. Wikipedia says goose bumps form when tiny muscles at the base of the hair contact, the hair becomes erect and a goose bump forms. I asked if you understood and you said, “No…what does contract and erect me.” Once I explained those two words to you I saw a light bulb go off. I love those moments with you. You immediately wanted to call daddy and tell him how goose bumps form. I was so proud when you used contract and erect in your explanation to him.

This past weekend while we were in the dressing room at Old Navy, you were dancing and watching yourself in the mirror. You started singing, “I’m Justin Bieber’s girlfriend. I’m Justin Bieber’s girlfriend.” This made me laugh because you’re just barely five and where you get ideas about boyfriends I’ll never know. I have to think it’s from school. When I told you that I didn’t think Selena Gomez would be very happy that you were stealing her boyfriend you stopped, pondered this and then started singing, “I’m Taylor Swift’s girlfriend. I’m Taylor Swift’s girlfriend.” And then you stopped to inform me that it was okay if you wanted to be Taylor Swift’s girlfriend because it just mattered that you love someone. And I told you that was right. I’m amazed at how much sinks in when we talk.

I have always tried to be honest with you. To explain things the best I could in the best way for your little ears to understand. Right now there are all these anti-bullying campaigns going on. And I realized it’s never too early to start talking to you about treating people with kindness and understanding we are all different. So we got to talking about how people are different and that it’s okay for us not to all do things the same way or to like the same things. And you agreed that having friends who were different was good because it would be boring if everyone was the same. So I took this opportunity to talk to you about love. Because one day soon, you may have a school friend who has two moms or two dads and I wanted you to know that not everyone’s family looks like ours, but that just because it looks different doesn’t mean there is any less love in their home. You looked at me and matter-of-factly said, “I know mom. It’s like our family. You have two moms and two dads and you just love them all. Right, mom?” Yes, Ava. That’s right.

Last night in the kitchen we were listening to your favorite Selena Gomez song and I said, “Hey Ava, you know the girl singing this song? She’s Justin Bieber’s girlfriend!” And you ran up to the iPod, put your hands in prayer position and said, “Please Selena Gomez can I PLEASE just have your boyfriend for one day?” It’s moments like these that I wish I could bottle up and show you in 30 years because it’s moments like these that make my heart grow just a little bit bigger in my love for you. Moments where your complete innocence takes over and you really believe that Selena Gomez can hear you through the iPod AND will give up her boyfriend for you.

This morning while I’m brushing your hair you start singing,

“Happy Birthday to you.
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to my heart
Happy Birthday to you”

And I asked, “It’s your heart’s birthday, is it?” Without missing a beat you say, “Yeah mom. It’s November 3rd, so it’s my heart’s birthday. Tomorrow it’s my brain’s birthday and I’ll sing Happy Birthday to him tomorrow.” I said, “So your heart is a girl and your brain is a boy.” And you said, “Yep.” No elaboration…it made perfect sense to you. But I love that you sing your organs Happy Birthday…it’s almost like you’re thanking them or acknowledging them at the very least.

These moments are just a few from this week. Moments that make me smile, make me laugh but most of all, make me so proud to be your mama. Love you doodle-bug!

 Love,

 Mom

P.S. As of last night your favorite songs (in this order as stated by you) were: 1) Who Says by Selena Gomez 2) Walking on Sunshine by Katrina & the Waves and 3) Anything by Taylor Swift

Like The Old Days…

30 Jul

Today was one of those rare days. A day where nothing was planned and yet everything happened. The kind of day where the joy is found in the impromptu. The moment at the end of the day where you go, “I want to etch this one in my wall.” For no other reason than it was made up of the good stuff. A day filled with laughter and love and joy.

It started with a posted status on Facebook of a friend “missing the south bay.” I thought he was reflecting…yet he was here…and what turned into a “come visit” from me, thinking it was a date in the future, ended up with him and his gorgeous twin girls stopping for fun on a Friday night. Mike, Ava and I are homebodies on a Friday night so this was a wonderful, unexpected bright spot in our normally routine week.

Carpets were painted, stickers were stuck to hardwood floors, toys were everywhere, parades happened, bean bags were thrown in a pillow fight…as were zebras and lambs…it was beautiful chaos. It was the kind of chaos that only happens when three little girls are up past their bedtimes and we parents just let it go. We just sat back and took pictures of the fun and let them go completely wild…encouraged it actually. Because at the end of the day…it’s just carpet…it’s just floors…it’s just…stuff. But what they got…what I got…that was  joy I wish I could bottle and sell to everyone. The giggles…oh my…they were enough to keep California sunny all through June.

Three hours past Ava’s bedtime and uncontrollable laughter takes over. There are girls hitting the hardwood floors as they miss the bean bags they aim for…there are no tears…just belly laughs…the kind that make you think you are missing a great inside joke…but it’s just delirium setting in. And it was just plain wonderful. Annie and Sophie left amongst a bunch of hugs and promises to “hang out soon.”

Ava was too full of giggles to calm down, despite it being two  hours past her bedtime. Every time the room would get quiet she would bust into a fit of giggles. Giggles that I would catch and that left Mike shrugging his shoulders…because really….only girls understand those kinds of giggles. And though I usually never stay in her room to put her to sleep, she asked if I would. And I knew the only way to stop the giggles was to snuggle her up and let her fall asleep.

As we lay there together, I was brought back to the times when she was a teeny, tiny baby…when I used to rock and rock and rock her to sleep. I felt her head start to get heavy….every minute or so she’d open her eyes and make sure I was still there and just like when she was a teeny-tiny baby, she inhaled three quick breaths, exhaled and was alseep. And I couldn’t bring myself to move for awhile. I knew she was asleep…I knew she wouldn’t wake up when I got out of her bed…but it became clear…my  baby was growing up. As much as that teeny-tiny baby is still there, it became clear that she is a little girl now. One that adores pillow fights and giggles and staying up way past her bedtime. And I realized, as hard as it is to let go of my teeny-tiny baby, I’m so excited for the pillow fights and giggles and staying up way past her bedtime. I just hope that every now and then she’ll let me sneak in her room and snuggle her up like the old days.