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Liebstar Award!

The past few days have been so busy I’m feeling blogging withdrawal symptoms from not blogging. 😦

But before I post anything, I want to respond to these questions following my Liebster Award nomination by wordsandotherarts. https://donnamcmillen300.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/liebster-award-part-2.

Once again, thank you so much for nominating me 🙂

1. Where would you like to go on your dream vacation? Definitely Switzerland

2. What is your preferred genre of music? Soft classic rock and neo soul

3. What is your favorite meal? Chicken and chapati

4. What happened during the happiest day that you can remember? I’ve many to choose from but the one that stands out is the 1st time Miss Sunshine said, “I love you so much in the whole world” her version of my telling her “I love you more than anything in the whole world.” Nothing beats the joy in my heart that night.

5. What do you do for fun? Read a lot, write, listen to music and dance with Miss S, zumba, bake, knit sometimes, watch series, play with Miss S, swim…endless list.

6. What do you hope to accomplish with your blog? At first I started this blog as a continuation of my journals for Miss S, so she’d be able to have a record of her early life. And it was also an outlet for me as I love writing. Now I hope to make a difference in other parents’ lives by sharing my experiences.

7. If a genie came to you and said “Your wish is my command!” you would wish for . . .? A life of travel (I’ve got the travel bug from little Miss S who already has a list of places she wants to go.)

8. What was/is your favorite subject in school? English and Maths

9. Besides blogging, what is your favorite hobby? Reading, reading, reading and music is the icing on the cake

10. Do you prefer to read books or magazines? Books

11. What’s the last thing you think about before you go to… Miss S

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She’s taking the driver’s seat

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Following a post I read today, loved and re-blogged (The Uninfluenced Mummy by lovelifeandlunacy), I’m challenging myself this weekend to let my little preschooler take the lead. That post was a breath of fresh air reminding me how the need to keep up with the Joneses doesn’t stop even in parenting. That’s probably why parents tend to keep comparing sleeping- through- the- night stories, who’s toilet trained before whom, which child has a bigger, better birthday party, who has a well behaved child and who has a constantly tantruming toddler…and it’s so subtle, we probably don’t even know it’s happening.

And couldn’t that be where most of the parenting frustrations come from? The need to be the best, when all the little ones want is us and our best. All they want is quality time playing and being attentive to them. They do not need to be spruced in their best outfits, posing for pretty pictures, being rushed from activity to activity just to give them the best. Whose benefit is it for? Us or them?

I want Miss Sunshine to have the best of the world but more than that I want her to have the best of me and the best of life through her experiences. So that means, relaxing a little bit and letting her take the lead. Following her cues. Letting her be…letting go. Yes, I’m her mama, I may be older and somewhat wiser, but in the long run she is and will always be the expert of herself. That doesn’t mean letting go of the big decisions; it just means I want to try and live like a child in a way, and Miss S is the best person who can teach me that. It’s time to stop, smell the roses and water her trees… stop, look at the butterflies with wonder…stop and notice every little thing we pass on the road as we walk…stop and just let things be without having a plan for every little thing…stop and question whatever seizes my imagination in this great big world…stop, giggle and sing at the top of my voice.

I’m following you Miss S…lead the way. This will be the start of more Yes and less No

Uninfluenced mummy…thank you!

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Taming of the Toddler (Credit to L.R. Knost)

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“So parents, here’s the scoop on tantrums:
They’re your fault.

Okay, okay, so maybe my toddlerhood contributes to them a teensy-weensy bit, but seriously…

You with the obsession with brushing teeth and bedtimes and matching clothes, enough already! Does it ever even occur to you that there’s another person (Yes, I am an actual separate person from you. Remember that whole cutting of the umbilical cord thing?) Who might have an opinion about what goes in my mouth or when I’m tired or not or what I want to wear? And you, the one who thinks carrots and kale are food. Really? You have all kinds of opinions about what tastes good and what doesn’t, but I’m not allowed to have any? And don’t even get me started on the rush-rush, hurry-up craziness that has me being snatched up in the middle of my most fantastic block tower ever and strapped into a torture device (Btw, where’s your car seat?!?) and dragged from one place to another right through snack time. I can’t have an agenda? Don’t my interests mean anything?

Okay, so maybe I don’t know everything yet, but how am I going to learn if you just force these issues instead of communicating with me about things? That whole learning by osmosis thing (a.k.a. passive learning) didn’t work for you in college, and it won’t work with me, either.

You keep going on and on and ooooon about wanting me to listen. “Why won’t you listen?” “If you’d listen for once!” “Would you just listen to me?!?” I’ve got three words for you…
Two. Way. Street. Maybe instead of that whole failed learning by osmosis experiment you keep trying (You do know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, right? Okay, okay, just checking!) You could read the research and find out that I learn by active engagement (two-way conversation!) and imitation. Yep, that’s right. I learn from what you do, not just what you say.

So here’s the deal… Want me to learn to listen? Then listen to me. Listen and respond to my cries when I’m a baby. Listen and reply to my babbling attempts at talking when I’m a toddler. Listen to my whining and respond patiently when I’m a preschooler. (I know it’s annoying, but whining is my last step, kind of like your ‘last nerve’ you complain I’m stomping on, before I have a meltdown. It’s my last-ditch effort to hold on to the tiny bit of self-control I’ve learned so far in my short life!) Listen and actually pay attention (a.k.a eye contact!) to my endless stories about snails when I’m in middle childhood and to my endless complaints and dramas when I’m in my teen years.

Want me to learn respect? Then show me respect. Show me that you respect my personal space by explaining the things you’re doing to me like changing my diaper or strapping me into a car seat. Show me that you respect others by not talking about them behind their backs (Yes, I can and do hear you!) or yelling at them on the road. Show me that you respect my opinions by asking for them and accommodating them when you can. (I know you won’t always be able to, but the times you do will help me to accept the times you can’t.)

Want me to learn compassion? Then show me compassion. Respond kindly and gently when I’m upset or angry or just out-of-sorts. Stay close when my emotions overwhelm me and I have a meltdown moment. (I need your presence and compassion the most when I seem to deserve it or even want it the least!) And model compassion by treating others kindly in front of me.

Want me to learn self-control? (This is a big one!) Then show me self-control. Take a parental time-out when you get tired or overwhelmed or angry so I learn how to handle those big emotions. Count to ten and take some deep breaths instead of yelling or hitting. And pace yourself in this big world. I need to learn that it’s okay to take care of myself and not feel like I have to fill every moment with plans and schedules and agendas. I’ll learn that from watching you choose wisely from the many opportunities and pressures life will offer.

Okay, so to wrap this up. My tantrums don’t just come out of nowhere. They are the result of tiredness, hunger, frustration, anger, etc. You can prevent them, or at least minimize them, by keeping me fed and rested, by paying attention to my preferences, interests, and attempts to communicate, and by communicating kindly and patiently with me about upcoming changes or things I might not like. And keep in mind, I’m always watching and absorbing everything that goes on around me, so make sure you’re living what you want me to learn! “

Excerpt (The Taming of the Toddler) from Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood by L. R. Knost

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The Big 3!

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Happy 3rd birthday princess!

My precious girl turned 3 exactly a week ago and it’s probably because the birthday week has been so fun- filled that I haven’t had a chance to blog.

I am filled with so much joy and gratitude when I think of the past 3 years. Miss Sunshine’s been a true miracle… When I think of her earlier years and how afraid I was because of her poor health and then I look at this robust, vocal, independent and very happy girl, I am amazed. And so thankful.

I know every child is unique, an angel and yet I feel this so wholly with Miss S. I look at her great ability to empathize and feel another’s pain and her need to make everyone happy, I think of how many times she has the ability to change my frown into a smile, I remember how many of her prayers are answered so instantly and I see how she can do anything to make the people she loves happy… Her generosity of spirit, her sensitivity and compassion never cease to amaze me. And that’s why I wish I could give her the world, because she asks for so little and is content with any little thing.

This year, her birthday had an animal theme. She has always loved animals- especially wild animals; but now she loves rabbits as well and loves playing with them at my work place. So everything, from the house decorations to her cake and activity for the day was animal related. And from the minute she walked down and saw the house, her face was euphoric; hearing her say ‘wow, God has given me so many gifts,’ was worth every hour spent preparing. For months she’d said all she wanted for her birthday was a tree, so for her actual birthday she had a flower tree from my parents to plant in a special pot; and she will still plant her trees so she can see them in years to come. Even now, I don’t understand where she got the concept of a tree from, and how that could be all she wanted. Her thoughts surprise me every single day. Needless to say, the rest of her day was perfect for her- visiting the animals at the orphanage, receiving birthday calls from so many people, seeing her animal themed cake and cutting it and having dinner with family… and still her birthday month goes on.

But I don’t mean to say that Miss S is not an ordinary pre- schooler with her own fights for independence, frustration and tantrums… she is. And I think because so often she’s so mature I tend to forget that she’s still a young child and has the right to behave like a small child. So it helps me to take time and remember that despite being mature for her age, she is allowed to just be 3. And her birthday week and birthday month give me a long time to celebrate her and be thankful for her and appreciate that I have the most special gift in the world.

So this year my dearest Sunshine I wish you sunlight as bright as you, family and friends who are as loving and supportive as you are, dreams that make you soar… I pray you are always surrounded by God’s grace, love, joy, peace and utter contentment and that you will always see the beauty in everything like you do now. I pray that you will always have a song to sing and a voice that can be heard. My dearest S, I wish you success…your own version of success… May your light always shine bright, may your voice always be as sweet, may your heart always be as pure, may you always know unconditional love… I wish you the best of everything…from my mouth to God’s ears.

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Blessings sweetheart!
You are incomparably loved

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Reflecting on the past three years

The more things change, the more they remain the same…

My precious girl,
It feels like we’ve spent a lifetime together because I can hardly remember a time without you. And as I sit here I realize even though you’re growing older and so much has changed, a lot remains the same. Being almost 3 means you’re more fluent and vocal, more independent and strong willed, toilet trained, ready for school and you sleep easily through the night. And something new that amazed me about a week ago was watching you draw your 1st person. Looking at that picture makes me smile so much because it shows me how you’re steadily growing and learning so much every single minute.

Yet what amazes me even more is how many things remain the same as you grow:

I thought by the time you were this age I’d know more, be an expert on parenting…but what I’ve discovered is that even as you grow, there’s more to learn, more challenges to face, more growth. You’re growing daily, changing daily so I’m getting to know a little new part of you every day. So I’m sure, even when you’re 12, I’ll still feel the ‘newness’ of parenting.

Separation anxiety- thought we were through with that whole phase and then a couple of months ago, there it was again. One day I was getting ready to go to work and you insisted you didn’t want me to leave…and that became your usual mantra whenever I was leaving for work. For a few weeks it was so heart wrenching leaving you, it felt like we were back to a year ago. It’s so easy to forget the past until it happens again. Things are back to normal now but what keeps me going even during the periods of separation anxiety is the thought that you don’t want me to leave just because you love me and want to be with me. And as long as I’ve prepared you and you know I’ll come back, you will always get through this.

Your cries still have the power to break me. They still pierce me. It’s taken a lot of adjustment to accept that it’s okay and healthy for you to cry. To accept that not wanting you to cry is more about how I grew up, in an age when children were encouraged not to cry or told to ‘stop crying.’ I’m still learning to hold you as you cry and let you feel and let out whatever emotions you’re feeling without trying to distract you or ‘make you happy.’ I’m learning to accept responsibility for how I feel when you cry as opposed to unconsciously making you feel guilty for my helplessness in that situation. I want you to grow up knowing that it’s okay for you to feel any emotion, so as to deal with it and express it healthily.

When you were younger, you were sick a lot and you falling sick became one of my greatest fears. That hasn’t changed at all. In fact, I need to work on that. As a result of the constant sickness during your infancy, how much I love you and how helpless I felt each time you were sick or we were in hospital, each time you have even a minor flu or a recurrence of any of your previous symptoms, I’m helpless once again. My life stops, at least mentally. I go through the motions but internally I’m just suffering, trying to protect you, even when you don’t need protecting. I know that’s about me. All that traumatized me and I need to deal with that so I don’t project my powerlessness to you.

I love you so so much, more every day. I didn’t know that was possible but when I see you in the morning, watch you sleep at night, I’m still amazed that you are mine. I want you to know that I mean it when I tell you are such a special gift to me and it is an honour to be given the job to be your mama.

Your love, your warmth,your sensitivity; just grows in leaps and bounds. You have a heart of gold my Sunshine and that hasn’t changed, it just keeps growing.

You still love gymnastics and reading, but you’ve found time to nurture more passions- dancing, singing, gardening… Guess that’s why all you want this birthday is a tree. It always strikes me how you’re inherently your own person, developing interests that aren’t necessarily mine. I have little or no interest in nature but you love trees and animals. I cannot even somersault but you taught yourself that and much more. I hope I’ll always help you be the best version of yourself and not just a copy- cat version of anyone else. I love you just as you are.

You still make the biggest difference in my life. Time hasn’t changed that, I doubt it ever will. You made a difference when you were born, you still make a difference in My life. You changed and are still changing my world.

Even now, when you sleep, you want to hold my hand. That is the best feeling. Your little hand wrapped around one finger, or part of my hand. That is enough to make my day.

You still love giraffes. And you’ve added rabbits and flamingos to your animal loves.

I know there is still so much more I can’t remember right now, but the most important thing, you still are and will always be my precious baby, my Sunshine, my adorable girl and my blessing.

Happy Birthday Eve my love

I love you, always and forever

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What August means to me

It’s August once again, Miss Sunshine’s birthday month and I’m reminded once again why I started blogging. She is the reason, my precious almost 3 year old who has been teaching me so much.

Before Miss Sunshine, I was sure of my life’s purpose- mental health awareness. I was driven towards alleviating mental distress and suffering. I thought I was prepared and knew most of what parenting would be about. Enter Miss Sunshine and I realized I knew nothing! (At least practically.) I know this is said all the time; that parenting is wonderful and challenging but I think what is forgotten is how unique and different each journey is. So since Miss Sunshine, my passion has subtly changed…I am passionate about being a gentle, respectful parent; a loving mother… I am passionate about having the best relationship with Miss S and growing with her…I am passionate towards helping her discover and reach her potential… I am passionate towards helping in creating a generation of children who have been taught that they are loved, respected, worthwhile and grow up believing this. I am still just as passionate towards mental health awareness and intervention, but now I also realize that one of the many ways to do this is to give Miss S and her generation of other little ones the best emotional start so that they have a holistic development. So, this is why I write.

As I said despite the beauty of being a parent, there have been challenges. Challenges because parenting doesn’t come with a guide book. What’s worthwhile about the challenges is what you learn from them. You learn what works and what doesn’t. So another reason I love blogging is because as I write I’m able to see when I’ve messed up and what I’ve learnt, and hopefully help others too.

If you had asked me 5 years ago, what my goals in life were, they were mainly driven by my career as a psychologist. But now, today, and as of 3 years ago, this is why I know I’m here:
To be the best mama to Miss S, to parent her with love and respect.
To always recognize how special she is, appreciate her and show her so she’ll always be aware of her self concept-her uniqueness and individuality and appreciate it.
To show her every day that she makes a difference, to me and the world.
To laugh and learn and play together as we grow.
To acknowledge when I’m wrong, apologize and make things right.
To make a difference, first to her, then to the world.
Most importantly to let Miss S always know that now and forever I’ll always be her cheerleader, always support, always encourage, unconditionally love. And that means whether she’s good or bad, smart or not, ‘successful’ or not, she’s my Sunshine, and the way I feel about her will never ever change.

And as I’m impacting the life of my Sunshine, I’ll still strive to make a big difference in mental health awareness. It’s just that she will always come first. Each and every person needs someone who will put them first, be their no 1 fan and cheerleader…and I choose now and always to be her person. I know how much it means to feel loved and cherished unconditionally. So daily I strive to worthy of the title ‘Mama Sunshine.’

My Sunshine, thank you for this momentous role!

Happy Birthday month!

I love you