Finding peace in her eyes

“She feels everything stronger.”

These are the words my wonderful friend used to help me describe our sweet girl and those words are a perfect description.

As our little girl was closing in on turning three, leaving her toddler stage behind her, it was becoming more and more apparent that Lady A’s personality would be just liker her mama’s: emotional and anxious.

Even as I write those words emotional and anxious my heart gets heavy because I have always seen these words in such a negative way. These words have always described me. Sure, sometimes before “anxiety” became a more common term, I would be described as a little girl who worried all the time, but it was anxiety. I have struggled with the negativity of those words and have viewed myself in such a negative light because of those words. My inner voice tells me that I am weak. It tells me to cower, to not feel brave, to not feel proud, to not feel good about myself because I am flawed. There is something wrong with me because I cry and I worry.

Even as I started to see these traits developing in our daughter I felt heavy for her because I did not want her to be like me. I felt that being like me would be bad for her. I could not find the strengths of my own personality, which was now becoming her’s.  I feared it was a flaw. 

That was when I knew it was time to find the positives about being emotional and anxious, as both Lady A and I would need to make these words our inner voices. God had created us this way and with perfect intention. I needed to open my eyes and my heart to what His purpose was in making us feel the strong way we feel.

Once I opened my heart to seeing the positives, I was blown away by what beauty there is in feeling the way my sweet girl and I feel. So far, I have noticed these things in her eyes and therefore in myself:

  • We think. A lot. Therefore we are very thoughtful. We try very hard to see everything from all possible perspectives, but are also aware that no matter how hard we try, we are going to forget someone’s point of view and hurt them. This knowledge also saddens us, as we would never intentionally hurt someone.
  • We would never want to let those we care about down, therefore, we make really good friends. It saddens us to see those we care about sad, and it breaks our hearts to know that we might have hurt them. We feel for our friends when they are happy, sad, angry, frustrated, excited, etc. and would try our hardest to make sure our friends feel loved and cared for.
  • We worry we will disappoint someone, therefore, we try really hard to be our best. This makes us very goal driven people who will constantly try to take ourselves to the next level. We want to do our best at all times. As Lady A says with a cheer, “I do it!”
  • We really, really struggle to hide our emotions, therefore, you will always know exactly how we stand on issues. We will be truthful and tell it like it is, because we really do not have any other choice, as our faces tell on us. This makes us very trustworthy and transparent people.
  • We worry about things going badly, so we do not take the good moments for granted. We are so appreciative of all the good in life because we know how quickly it could change. It is actually quite overwhelming with how bad things could be that we have to be very intentional to stay focused on all the good.
  • We feel. We will be those people who are crying “happy tears” at your happy moments and we will be those people who will stand beside you on your worst moment. We will try to put ourselves in your position and bring ourselves to gut wrenching tears because we cannot imagine that pain. We are the definition of empathetic.

I am sure I will find more positives of our emotional and anxious personalities as I keep an open heart to them and watch our sweet girl flourish. I also know that I need to keep telling her these positives, and more, about who she is, as it will become her inner voice.

I have learned so much about her and about myself through her eyes. We are going to have to teach her and myself the tools to deal with the struggles that come with being emotional and anxious. She is still very young, but we already know we have to be very careful and intentional with how we approach our girly.

So far, we have been most successful in bringing out the very best in her and myself by focusing on the following:

  • Be patient. You have to be very patient. I have never been a patient person and I am blown away by the patience that God has given me when He gave us Lady A. In moments that I think I would have gotten very angry and loud, I get calm and quiet. My heart knows that is what she needs in that moment. I know I have to give her space, even if it means sitting with her in silence, until we can talk about the problem and fix it.  Things take us longer because we have to talk everything through, but my heart has been patient with this, as it is what our girly and I need.
  • Be mindful with our words. Both Lady A and I take everything anyone says to heart. We have to be very careful about how and what we say to her. We need to encourage her and lift her up, rather than talk her down.
  • Clapping. We do a ridiculous amount of clapping in our home. However, we know that right now, we our our children’s biggest cheerleaders, and frankly, they are ours too! We celebrate all the small accomplishments because we know they lead to the big ones. We encourage and say “You did it!” giving them the strength to believe in themselves to do it again.
  • We pick our battles. Every day we are given multiple opportunities to fight, yet we choose to pick our battles on the ones that stick to our family values and character. So, today she wants to wear a mismatched, mess of an outfit? Well, as long as it is clean and she is covered, we are okay with that. But, today she wants to use her crabby voice and be mean to her brother, that is a battle we pick because our family is not okay with showing mean character.
  • We talk a lot. We talk about what we did that was a great choice. We talk about how we feel. We talk about how others might feel from a choice we make. We talk about how we could make a better choice next time. We talk about how to let someone know how you feel. We talk about who we can safely talk to. We talk a lot.
  • We take breaks. Sometimes we just need a moment to pull ourselves together and calm down, so we all take breaks. Taking a break is something we can do ourselves in our home. Lady A often will take a break till she is calmed down and then we can talk about it or we just move on. Mommy takes breaks too. This is different than a Time Out in our home. A Time Out is something that mommy or daddy (or another adult) puts you in and you have to wait/think there until the adult who put you there comes and talks to you about why you are in Time Out and how you can fix it.
  • We give a lot of advance notice on what we are going to do and talk about any potential stressful situations before they occur. We prepare her for what we are going to do and help her feel safe and that she can do it.
  • We (adults) share our mistakes with our children and use our mistakes as teaching points for better choices in the future. Mistakes are not condemned or punished, but rather an opportunity for growth.
  • We cuddle a lot. We hold hands a lot. We love a lot.

As I started to watch myself through her eyes, I also realized that God in his perfection, had placed the perfect people in our lives to help us to recognize the gift of our emotions and anxiousness. God gave Lady A and I the most patient man in her daddy, my husband. I never truly appreciated his patience and his approach with me, until I really started to watch his interactions with our sweet girl. When she is really struggling, he is patient with her. He knows that yelling at her and talking down to her will just make the situation worse. Instead, he is calm, patient, loving, while also being strong and firm. I noticed that this is exactly how he approaches me when we are having a disagreement. He is the exact man for our family.

God also gave me our sweet girl. She has taught me to love and to accept myself, just as I love and accept her. I have struggled with this for so long and it took for a sweet, little girl to show me to love myself. She has shown me it is wonderful to feel things stronger because I feel love for her stronger. I am learning through her how to embrace being me, so that each day I can teach her to do the same. I have such a bond with this little lady because I see and feel me. She is the person in my life who feels like me. We will hold each others’ hands and hearts. Right now it is time for me to be the mama and help her through each hard stage, but she does not realize how much she is helping me.

I am so grateful to have found peace in her eyes and peace in knowing it is beautiful to feel everything stronger.

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Hold my hand, sweet girl. I will love you through it all.

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.

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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. tree 13I 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.