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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