My journey as a parent is still very young. I still have so much to learn. Two and a half years ago this little lady came into the world, made me a mother, and has been humbling me and teaching me ever since.
Before actually meeting our sweet girl, I had a plan. See, I used to have a plan for everything. Read I find some of my biggest truths in the baby food aisle at Target to find out about more of my plans that did not work out as I had thought.
I had a plan and a vision for how our little baby would be. We did not know the gender, as I hoped this would help us (me) to not plan out everything. I did plan everything that I could though.
Our baby would clearly be an amazing sleeper because I had read this book that other moms I know and respect have read and have seen fantastic results! Obviously, if I follow the instructions in the book my child would do just as the book said and would be sleeping through the night in no time. Our baby would also be such an amazing eater because when the time comes I am going to home-make all the baby’s food to only expose the baby to wholesome foods with spices and flavors. And as baby would grow into a toddler, our baby would listen to everything we say because we would be strong and consistent. We would say what we mean and that child would do what we asked or else there would be a strong and consistent consequence. I mean really, there is a formula for raising children, obviously.
Okay, I really was not this naive. However, there is quite a bit of truth to the above statements.
Then this strong, sweet, beautiful, and dramatic individual entered the world. I use the word individual on purpose here, because that is exactly what she is. She was not created in my image, but rather in God’s. She will not fit all the molds that I had previously thought my child would. She is not the child in the books I had read. She is her own person. She was created this way and our influence is not going to change who she is at her core. And that is such a blessing. In many ways she will exceed what I had imagined.
Our little lady still hardly sleeps through the night, 2 and a half years later….. 30 months. Oh sweet child. She did not work like the sleep book said she would. We “scheduled” her. We gave her baths before bed. We even spent more money on the nighttime bath soap so that she would sleep. We swaddled her. We stuck to bedtime routine. She just did not sleep. We spent lots of nights without sleep. She just wanted to be with us. Now, as a toddler, she has these horrible nights where she wakes up so upset that I have to hold her in my arms and talk about butterflies and ponies, and everything wonderful in the world to calm her down. The only way we can get her to go back to sleep once we’ve calmed her is snuggled in tight next to us.
So, guess what sweet girl, we do. We will love you through this.
Our little lady is a finicky eater. I am saying finicky as a polite way of saying she is a pain in the rear when it comes to eating. Once she was old enough to eat with her own plate at the table the fights began. She would throw the food and scream, so much screaming, about food that she loved the day before. We would consistently offer her the things that we were having and she would throw giant fits. My husband and I could never
enjoy eat our meals because we were dealing with her mealtime melt-downs. Everything we thought would work, didn’t. We were having a battle at every meal. Then we changed our approach and followed what we felt in our hearts. We offered her what we were having. If she didn’t want it, she didn’t have it. But, she didn’t have anything else. No arguing, no begging. Just these are the options. We celebrate when she does eat… which makes her eat more. We are learning. She is learning. She is eating. We clap anytime any of us eats, so there is a lot of clapping. Mealtime is becoming pleasant again. We had to back down from our approach, follow her lead, and love her through it all.
Now, like I said before, my time as a mother is still very young. However, I see we are coming over the hill of the baby trials and moving into the mountain of the parenting trials of raising a person with character. Whoa. Talk about anxiety. She is even getting to the age where she will soon remember how we talk to her and treat her. This is where my husband comes into play as an incredible influence in the way I want to parent.
You see, a few months ago I made a terrible, horrible, mistake. I compared and talked down about my child, in front of my child, for her being her. Oh my word. That is not the mother I want to be. We were with friends who have a daughter who is two weeks younger than our girly. Their child was doing a wonderful job of eating her meal and was looking at our child confused as to why she was throwing a full out temper tantrum over the meal, and then our daughter proceeded to make her negative opinion on whatever followed very clear to everyone.
I was so embarrassed and I even said something like, “She is eating her meal. Why can’t you be like her. She is so easy going and you make everything so difficult.” We all joked it off because our two year old cannot understand what I had said and we talked about how she is definitely dramatic. We then packed our little family up and started for our hour and a half drive home.
My husband is a man of few serious words, so when he is serious, it is best to listen. He has heard me talk many times about the mother I want to be. We began our drive and he began to speak:
“You cannot compare her to other people. She is her own person. You would not want to be compared for being you.” – Truth. Painful truth. I had done exactly that. She is her own person and has her own strengths and her own areas of growth and it is our role to help her bring out those strengths and to help her in her areas of growth. It is so wrong of me to expect her to be someone she isn’t.
“You need to stop being embarrassed when she acts this way. It is not a reflection of you.”-Truth. More painfully, he saw my embarrassment. She is her own person and she was really struggling in that moment. Instead of helping her through that moment, I was embarrassed about what someone else might think of her behavior. Truthfully, I should be embarrassed for how I acted in that moment.
“She isn’t going to listen when we yell at her. I know I don’t like being yelled at and I don’t listen when I am.”– Truth. This is very true for most humans. No one likes being yelled at. Some respond by doing whatever behavior is required to prevent the yelling or some just ignore the yelling. Our daughter and my husband are the later. Our little girl responds infinitely better when we calm down, whisper to her what we would like her to do, and ask in a respectful manner. Which, really, isn’t that how everyone would like to be treated?
My husbands words really resonated with me and has had a direct impact in how I handle situations with our little girl since. Our world is more peacefully since making a change in how I relate and connect to her.
Your child is not giving you a hard time. Your child is having a hard time.
I think of this quote often now, when our little lady is having a melt-down. I scoop her up, take her aside, and try to calmly help her use her words to let me know what is going on. When we are in situations where she needs a break or isn’t being kind, I will often join her in “time-out/time-in” to have a talk about what happened and how we can fix it. I am not perfect with this, but I am trying. I will love her through it.
Parenting is not how I thought it would be. In many ways it is even more of a blessing. These little people are incredible individuals. However, they do not fit the mold that we may have had for them. There is not a “how-to manual” for raising children that works for all children, as they are each their own person.
It is our job as parents to help them be the very best versions of themselves. It is our job to see their strengths and help them develop them. It is our job to see the areas where they need support, and to be that support. It is our job to be flexible to their changing needs.
It is our job to hold their hand and love them through it all.
Thank you sweet girl for teaching me so much already. I am excited to have you hold my hand, love me through it, and teach me more tomorrow.