Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I'm a Little Lost

The two-year-old and four-year-old left Sunday. They will return Monday. These times are important to me. Their relationships with my family are important to me. They are important to them as well. They love their trips to Iowa.

They have spent the last two days at "cousins camp" as my mom and step-dad hosted their five grandchildren for fun and memory making. Today that included a trip to the zoo.

I have slept a little later...had slow mornings (not because it took that long to get ready but just because I could)...eaten out with my husband (we do this so rarely that I've declared our kitchen a no-cook zone for the week!)...worked long hours (although I've felt the pressure of the clock each day as it inched toward 5:30 - my usual daycare pickup time - only to realize daycare could close without my arrival).

I have also: gazed into their rooms...noticed the quiet...left the toys in the living room right where the children left them...hesitated to rinse out the last sippy cup left in the refrigerator even though its contents will be beyond hope long before Monday...missed them. I have felt a little lost.

And I will be grateful for their return. And then next summer, they will spend their week in Iowa again because no matter how I long for them, this time is important.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Life's Inconveniences

Yesterday after church we went to grab fast food before my boys got in the car with my mom and sister to make the 8 hour drive home to spend the week with their adoring grandparents and aunt. Of course, the point of fast food was that...it's fast. And with a long drive ahead and already no way to make it by bedtime, fast was important. The service was questionable, the food was semi-fast, the eating basically went well. That is until the two-year-old knocked over his chocolate milk. Some dozen or more napkins (and several minutes) later, the mess was cleaned up.

As parents in the middle of a restaurant with chocolate milk working its way toward the edge of the table, dreaming of rolling on to the floor, we had a choice about how to respond to the two-year-old who caused the spill. And I believe these moments are important. So, what were the choices?

1) Yell at/scold the child for his carelessness (perhaps followed by telling him he won't get to drink chocolate milk again until he is 15). After yelling/scolding - clean up the mess. (This is often the easiest response to anything out of our control - get mad at someone)

2) Get napkins. Let the clumsy two-year-old help clean up mess. Name it what it was - an accident that he has to take responsibility for. (This is a more difficult response because sometimes a two-year-old cleaning is quite messy and it takes the discipline of not only responding to the event, but also to the intent)

3) In addition to whichever choice is made in the immediate reaction, consider whether the next time we're drinking chocolate milk at a fast food restaurant it should first be put in a spill-proof sippy cup!

I really believe that intent deserves consideration, even as I am aware this takes more energy. I do think the response to my two-year-old who accidentally spills his milk should be different than when he defiantly throws it (yes, that occasionally happens, too). I do think that the response to my four-year-old who accidentally knocks down his brother when they are playing should be different than my response when he knocks him down out of anger (yes, that too occasionally happens). And even when the acts happen intentionally, I do believe my response should be bathed in gentleness.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bigger Picture #1: Every Moment Matters

Last night some good friends had their second beautiful daughter. Seeing her for the first time, 6 pounds 12 ounces, not yet cleaned up, learning how to use her tongue, finding her voice...I was amazed in those usual and yet overwhelming and always new ways that I find myself experiencing whenever I am that close to new life. As I left the hospital, I found myself in awe again of creation, of birth, of life.

I also found myself aware of something else. Having last been in that birthing center 847 days ago (could it possibly have been that long?) when I gave birth to my second son, as I walked away I realized that every moment matters. From that first breath right up until the last, every single moment matters. Taking time to tell my sons I love them before leaving them at daycare matters even if it doesn't seem they hear me. Letting the two-year-old open his own fruit snacks or yes, even his own milk, matters even if it's a slower and messier process. Responding with patience to the four-year-old when he has none matters even if it's difficult for me. Apologizing when I need to...seeking and speaking forgiveness...listening...taking time to notice who they are...every moment matters.

Some moments pass us by. In some moments we forget they matter. Sometimes we just make the moments worse than they need to be. And we can't get them back. But in this moment and the next we can start again.

A sweet little baby being cuddled in her loving momma's arms reminded me of that tonight. Thank you, precious girl.

For more Bigger Picture Moments visit Hyacynth at Undercover Mother or head to Bigger Picture Blogs to learn more about Bigger Picture Moments.

Quick Takes, #5: Why I Don't Spank

I know this can be a touchy subject. People have strong feelings on both sides of this issue. I have strong feelings against spanking children. And in 4 1/2 years of parenting, through all my frustrated moments, I have managed to live what I believe. You may choose otherwise, but here are some reasons I don't spank...

1. People are not for hitting and children are people, too.

2. I've watched people spank, swat and slap children who are getting in trouble for hitting, kicking or throwing toys. It makes no sense to me to teach non-violence with violence. I can't imagine it make sense to a two-year-old or four-year-old.

3. My heart broke when I heard my four-year-old say to my two-year-old, "Keep doing that and I'm going to spank you" - especially as a mother who doesn't spank.

4. A wise man once told me that we'll only hit if we're angry and we should never hit when we're angry.

5. Spanking and discipline are not synonymous. We can discipline, set limits, and so forth without physical violence.

6. As much as I want my children to choose the right behaviors, I don't want that to happen because of fear. I desire to motivate my children in other ways.

7. I simply do not believe that spanking is what God desires.

If you'd like to read more, go see what Sarah had to say on this topic at Emerging Mummy. She says it well.

And for more Quick Takes visit Jennifer @ Conversion Diary.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Quick Takes, #4: Things I Love About the Two-Year-Old

Quick Takes topic of the week...the two-year-old and what I love about him (a few things, anyway)

1. How could I not love that smile?

2. Even though he's getting big, he still loves to be held

3. He's just easy going...it doesn't take much to please him or calm him

4. The fact that his favorite phrase is, "Me, too," as he strives to be as big as his big brother

5. His bravery - there's nothing he won't try

6. The certainty with which he tells us things (even on those occasions when we don't know what he's saying!)

7. The way he tells me, "I not baby...I big boy," even as he sucks his binky, cuddles his blankie and climbs on my lap!

Do you have a special little two-year-old in your life? What are you loving about him or her?

For more Quick Takes visit Conversion Diary.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

On Training Horses

I was in a conversation today with a friend whose husband trains horses. The philosophy he uses can be simply stated this way:

Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult.

I was struck by the simplicity and brilliance of that approach.

Now I'm wondering how to apply that to parenting.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I Know Dat!

My two-year-old likes to hit. He's not mean...he just has those two-year-old defense mechanisms which are largely connected with his arms and hands.

The other day he hit his brother. I sat him in time out and said, "We do not hit." He looked at me and (in a tone that said, "DUH!") responded, "I KNOW DAT!" I walked away wondering, "Then why do you hit?"

Since then it has occurred to me that although our age may increase we are sometimes not so far from the two-year-old mentality. How often do we hear God saying, "That's not a good choice," only to respond, "I know that" even while we keep on doing the same thing? I suspect more often than we'd like to admit.

Perhaps the place I need to begin in helping my two-year-old learn to match his actions with what he knows are good choices is for me to make sure I am doing the same. Perhaps when I am doing what I know is faithful, what I know is right...perhaps then my children will be more likely to as well.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Quick Takes, #3: Things I Love About the Four-Year-Old

This week my Quick Takes are going to center on my four-year-old...so here are 7 (of the many) things I love about him.

#1: The smile that lights up his face (and mine, too)

#2: The way he doesn't miss a thing that's happening around him

#3: His fierce loyalty to those he loves

#4: His desire to grow up so he can drive a race car and be a "doctor who takes care of teeth"

#5: The way he can so quickly go from being mommy's baby to very grown up and back again

#6: How his eagerness and hesitancy mingled last night when the bigger boys on our street welcomed him in to their game

#7: The balance he seems to naturally have of valuing time alone as well as time with people

What is it that you love about your children? I'd love to hear. Stayed tuned...next week we'll talk about the two-year-old.

Meanwhile, for more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Could I Play Favorites?

I have been working on a project dealing with the Biblical character of Rebekah (from Genesis) and I have to admit she is one I struggle with. In Genesis we are told that she gives birth to twins but it seems that she and her husband, Isaac, each have a favorite. Esau is his father's favorite; Jacob is his mother's. Over the course of their story Jacob, with the help of his mother, ends up cheating his twin out of some of the benefits of being firstborn...his birthright, his blessing.

And as I read the story everyone loses...the brothers' relationship is broken...Rebekah has to be separated from her favorite son...Isaac, having been deceived himself, must live with the reality of what he has taken from Esau. In reading scripture and in learning from church tradition, the difficulties of this story are explained away. We are told that God works in different ways than the world, thus using the younger rather than the firstborn. We, in Judeo-Christian traditions, follow the lineage of Jacob for telling our story, so we are told to be invested in his success. We are told that this is God's will and Rebekah is just helping it happen. We are told many things.

But, as a mother, I still struggle with Rebekah (and Isaac) and the overt favoritism that is shown. But, it's not fair to just read her story and criticize Rebekah. See, my struggle isn't only about Rebekah, it's a struggle with the question of whether or not I could be put in a position where I would choose one of my children over the other.

Is it possible that at some point I could act on behalf of one of my children even when it was to the detriment of the other? I understand loving children differently according to their different needs. I understand loving different things about your children. In fact, Katie at The Baby Factory (http://johnstonbabyfactory.blogspot.com/2010/06/days-go-by.html) talked today about the wonderful differences between her twins that she celebrates and I so related to that. But, could I choose one child if it meant not choosing the other? I don't think so. At least I can't imagine it.

In fact, just the other night as tornado sirens were sounding and a tornado was said to have been spotted not far from our home, I had a moment of wondering how to choose which child to carry downstairs. Their father was right behind me...neither child would be neglected...but all I could think was, "How do I choose?" Ultimately I didn't have to. Both were carried to safety. Our house didn't blow away. But even in that moment I could not imagine one of my children feeling like I had picked the other and risked him.

I feel for Rebekah. I don't know what all was going on. I also have to say...I dislike her choices. And I hope that I never find myself in a position where I am able...or must...play favorites.

Friday, June 4, 2010

7 Quick Takes, #2: Reasons to Prevent

Since my approach to Quick Takes is to do it topically, today I'm sharing 7 reasons to make a commitment to prevent child sexual abuse - not a fun topic, but important. My inspiration comes from a training I went to today to become a facilitator of a wonderful prevention curriculum called "Stewards of Light."

#1 Experts estimate that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before turning 18

#2 The median age for reported sexual abuse is 9 years old

#3 Most children never report the abuse

#4 More than 90% of children who are sexually abused know their abusers

#5 People who abuse children look and act like everyone else and often appear trustworthy

#6 Nearly 40% are abused by older and larger children

#7 Over 70% of sexual abuse survivors report excessive drug or alcohol use

These statistics are sad and scary. They are also reminders that the choice is ours...all of ours...we can make a difference for our children.

For more Quick Takes visit Jen @ Conversion diary (http://www.conversiondiary.com/2010/06/7-quick-takes-friday-vol-83.html)