Being a mother is the most challenging, rewarding, terrifying, satisfying thing I have done thus far in my life. I gave birth to our first daughter in 2009. I remember taking her home from the hospital, settling in, laying her down on a blanket on the living room floor & Scott & I then sitting & looking back & forth from her to each other. We literally said “Now what? What do we do with her?” Bringing home our second daughter in 2011 at least had us more prepared for an infant, but we were just getting started with a 2-year old.
My niece just turned 3 a couple weeks ago. She is, of course, beautiful & funny & goofy & stubborn! She was having a moment of defiance when my brother had asked her to do something. I said “She’s a three-nager, get used to it!” He laughed hysterically & said he was going to steal my word. They just had a baby in August & they are familiar with the infant stage, but just starting to navigate the toddler ones. These are stages that we all go through as parents. One stage we are in seems to last FOREVER & then before we know it, we have a new stage & we realize that the other one ended…but we can’t remember when.
Our oldest daughter, Kaitlynn, is now 9 1/2 & in 4th grade. She was excited & nervous to start school in the fall & had a positive outlook. She knew she had a teacher that has a reputation of being “tough” & “strict”, but we reminded her that it was for her benefit to remain respectful & optimistic. She listened & did just that… for 3 days. Then all of a sudden she had a stomach ache & didn’t feel well enough to go to school. When my kids are sick, they have to go to work with me & hang in my office, so that’s what she did. Throughout the day, I knew she was physically fine, but couldn’t put my finger on what was up. Over the next few days she developed a form of hysteria while getting ready for school in the morning. She complained of constant stomach aches & was convinced she was going to vomit at any given time. Then she had an over-active bladder- using the bathroom every 10 minutes sometimes. I would send her out the door in tears while telling me she didn’t want to go to school… & once she left I would either be so frazzled I was pissed the rest of the day, or I’d cry in defeat because I was somehow failing my daughter. Scott & I knew for the sake of our sanity & our family, that we couldn’t do enough to help her on our own. I contacted the school social worker & her homeroom teacher. Scott & I met the following week with a counselor that was going to help her navigate the anxiety she was exhibiting. To date, she meets with her every week & we are SO thankful for the progress made & the joy we have seen be returned to our daughter, not just for school, but socially as well. She joined basketball this year & we are SO proud of the progress she’s made! Their first game was pretty much painful to watch- now it’s so fun!
Our second daughter, Abby, is 7 1/2 & in 2nd grade. She’s always been the go-with-the-flow kid whose “pokey” & nonchalant demeanor tends to drive me crazy. As she’s gotten older, she’s become stubborn & ornery- which I attribute to her older sister always bossing her around. She’s also funny & sweet & creative. There is very little “peace” between the two of them these days as they do whatever they can to tick each other off. Some days I think they fight simply because they breath the same air…. But back to Abby being stubborn… Scott & I went on a much-needed vacation to the Dominican Republic (that’s another post). Scott’s mom stayed at our place with the girls to help keep routine & ease the anxiety Kaitlynn was having about us being gone. The day we returned home Abby laid on the floor, cried, said “no”, or “uh-uh” when we asked her to get ready & was just plain defiant. She’s frustrating & relentless!
Abby threw an actual tantrum last Thursday morning. She was laying on the floor in the living room with her feet up the wall- kicking. I told her she needed to get ready for school so we could leave. Due to our MN winter weather, the kids hadn’t school all week & were 2 hours late that morning, but I still needed to get to work. Her “fit” started because she didn’t get to give Lilly (our dog) a treat after going potty. I told her she would be going to bed at 7p.m. that night due to her behavior. I finally got her in the car & drove to work. That evening she was supposed to be unloading & reloading the dishwasher. She was “set-off” when Kaitlynn turned on the Wii to play Mario. The next almost 2 hours were chaos. She screamed, she yelled, she told us “No!” We tried reasoning with her, calming her, getting her to open up, but nothing worked. After about an hour, I did what any logical mother would do… I got a glass with some ice cubes, told Scott she was his problem, I poured myself some Bailey’s Irish Cream & sat down on the couch to wallow in my frustration. After another 20 minutes in which she yelled that we didn’t care about her, I swallowed the last of my drink & got her into her bed as opposed to the stair she was laying on in the hallway. I crawled into bed with her & got her talking. Communication is so important & it’s hard in the world of technology to make those connections, but it’s extremely important to me that my girls know how to talk to me.
The gist of the issues with both of our girls is simple: it’s hard working learning how to grow up. They are “in a mood” or “having a day” & at the quick, I see the Devil in Children’s clothes slamming a door or telling me I’m so mean. It took me climbing into bed with her & then reflecting later on that there are SO many expectations for them that as adults- we forget they don’t know how to process it all. Often with both of our girls, it’s other girls that are at the heart of the drama. So & so wouldn’t let me play with her at recess. So & so said I was ugly/fat/not cool. it’s hard to teach them to grow tough skin & let it roll off their shoulders. It’s hard to teach them that they can’t let one “bad” thing ruin their whole day. I started a journal with Kaitlynn so she has a safe place to write things down if she feels like she can’t actually talk to me about something- anything! If she writes in it, she puts in on my pillow to read & when I write back, I put it on her pillow to read. Sometimes she tells me about a worry, sometimes about something fun or exciting that happened at school. Sometimes a whole page will simply say “I love you Mom”. As long as she’s using it to communicate with me, I’ll take it!
Abby earned her radio back tonight & as I tucked her in & she kissed my nose, I told her I was proud of her for listening yesterday & today & making good choices- & my heart melted a little when her response was “I’m proud of myself too, mom.” While I feel like I’m failing as a mother & that my kids aren’t near as respectful (to us) as I dreamed they’d be, my heart grows a little bigger when I hear words like that that prove to me they are listening. This does NOT change the fact that we need to make some adjustments in how we parent/handle different situations. This is a learning stage for us as well!! Kaitlynn has really started opening up about different things too. I see her interact with her friends & sometimes I’m so stinking proud of her & others I can’t figure out who that weird kid belongs to. In all of what they do, they are learning how to grow up. They are disguised as the Devil in children’s clothing, until I, their mom, stops & sees God speaking to me that they need me. They need my compassion, my guidance, my comfort, my stern hand & my ears. Teaching them to listen requires me to listen. I pray to God everyday to allow me to do my girls justice- to be worthy of him giving them to me. I’m trying. That’s all any of us mothers & fathers can do. I believe at the end of the day, God prevails & the Devil tucks tail & runs. In the mean time, I always have a bottle of wine in the fridge & two little girls to pray over.