My daughter loves the Little Critter books by Mercer Mayer. Little Critter is easy for her to identify with; he forgets his boots, leaves the tap running, and “accidentally” eats the whole bag of cookies. One of my 4-year-old daughter’s current favorite books is When I Get Bigger. In it, Little Critter lists the things he will do when he is older. Things like: pour milk into his own cereal, walk to the corner store alone, make a phone call by himself and camp out in the backyard.
At the end of the book, Little Critter concludes that “Mom and Dad say…I’m not bigger yet.”
Sometimes it’s hard to know when my children are ready for new things. Is my seven-year old son ready for guitar lessons? Is he ready to go on a sleepover? Is my four-year old ready to play at a friend’s house without me? Will she be ready for full-day kindergarten next fall? We’ve all got these questions. Sometimes our kids need a little push to try new things. Sometimes it’s hard to know when to push and when to give our kids more time to grow up.
My daughter loves dancing. When she’s in the mood to dance she disappears up the stairs and into her room. I hear a few thumps and bumps, and drawers opening and closing. When she comes out, she wears a hand-me-down, frayed yellow tutu, too-small, pink teddy bear slippers and a purple shirt. She switches on my dusty old CD player and Frozen’s Let it Go blares into our living room. She tilts her head to the right, closes her sparkly blue eyes, twirls, jumps and spins, and gets lost in the music and her imagination.
Like a typical momma with a little girl, when my daughter turned three and a half, I thought “She loves to dance so I must sign her up for dance classes!” We convinced two of her best buddies to sign up for Tiny Tutus and Tights at the local rec centre.
The first day she was excited; the yellow tutu and teddy bear slippers were ready. When we got there the moms were told to wait in the hall while the little girls hesitantly followed the teacher into the studio. That seemed okay with my daughter, on the first day.
The second day it was a completely different story. My daughter refused to enter the room of three-year olds in tights. I tried every trick in the book: encouragement, getting her to hold her friend’s hand, even bribery with the promise of ice cream later, but under no circumstance would she enter that room without me. The tears came, then the loud cries. She clung to me. There was no way she was going to dance class without me. The teacher suggested “tough love” (that I should walk away and leave her) but my gut said it wasn’t quite time for that. I wasn’t invited to come into the room and watch.
Out in the hallway my daughter buried her grape-shampoo-scented hair into my chest. Her tiny hands grasped my neck and hung on for dear life. “Let’s <sob> go <sob> get hot chocolate mommy.”
So we did. We walked, hand in hand out of the rec centre. Maybe if I had pushed a little harder I could’ve convinced her to try it the next week. I don’t think so.
Three and a half is a time for twirling in the living room in teddy bear slippers. Maybe four will be a better time for leaving momma in the hall.
She’s not bigger yet and that’s okay with me.
My grandma was a doctor’s daughter, one of seven children from a big brick house in a tiny Canadian prairie town. When we were kids my brother and I cross-country skied across the frozen barley field from our farm to hers. As we neared her yard, we saw her silhouetted through the picture window in the living room. She dropped everything to come and watch for us. Sometimes she even did a little dance and my grandpa chuckled from his brown armchair in the corner. When we walked in that door, we were all that mattered.
When my grandma was a little girl in the 1920s, her family got the Eaton’s catalogue in the mail. One year her own grandma, “Namma”, ordered a box called a Lucky Pie from the catalogue. Little did she know she would set in motion a Christmas tradition that has spanned almost 90 years in our family.
(A Lucky Pie is a big wrapped box with ribbons sticking out of the top. Each ribbon connects to a small wrapped gift inside, one for each person attending Christmas dinner. Each person’s name is on a card taped to the end of their ribbon. There is often an extra ribbon or two, just in case an unexpected guest shows up.)
When I was a little girl, everyone gathered in a tight circle around the Lucky Pie and grasped a ribbon, right before dinner was served. All eyes turned to my grandma and when we were quiet she started the chant: “One for the money. Two for the show. Three to get ready and go man go!” We pulled with all our might, excited to see what treasure was at the end of our ribbon. Sometimes the ribbons would all get tangled up and we’d laugh and laugh as we sorted it all out.
The presents were little toys or knick-knacks my grandma had collected all year and stowed away in her hall closet; mini-flashlights, Nestle rosebud chocolates, tiny Swiss army knives or brightly coloured nail polish. My uncle Andrew always told us we could swap gifts with each other if we didn’t like what we had received. You can imagine the chaos that created between my brother, my cousins and I.
Last year was the first year that both my children were old enough to participate in the Lucky Pie. As their tiny hands held the name tags, I swear I could smell the Yardley lavender soap my grandma always used. I yearn for just one more hug from her but she has been gone for more than four years now.
Some days I’d love to still be that little girl with braids in my hair, cocooned in the safety of my grandma’s house. But it’s my turn now to carry on our traditions. When I think of her example it helps me suck just a little more patience out of a trying day with my own children; to give another hug instead of an admonition.
Whenever we left her house, my grandma would stuff the pockets of our puffy winter jackets with Christmas oranges, never letting us leave empty-handed. She taught me what it means to love unfailingly.
*This post was first published last Christmas at Momma Be Thy Name.
I checked the news when I woke up this morning and this headline blared out:
As we in North America go about our Christmas preparations, worrying about presents and parking spots, Taliban militants stormed a school in Peshwar, Pakistan.
According to Pakistani military spokesman, Asim Bajwa, it was “an assault that seemed designed purely to terrorize the children rather than take anyone hostage to further the militant group’s aims. Their sole purpose, it seems, was to kill those innocent kids. That’s what they did.”
Two years ago, almost to the day, Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, waving semi-automatic weapons and shooting 20 children dead.
Two completely unrelated incidents, yet both targeting the most vulnerable and precious of a community.
When I was a little kid, a part of me looked forward to being an adult. A real idealist, I naively assumed that once everyone grew up physically, they would grow up mentally and emotionally too. I thought that once people were in their 20s, or at least in their 30s, they would act like grown-ups: throw out their selfishness and put others first.
Maturity and kindness have nothing to do with age. Today on the news, I see grown men raging around with machine guns throwing tantrums and killing children. Yesterday I saw my 6-year-old son showing true bravery and kindness by standing between his little friend and a bully, taking hits so his friend wouldn’t get hurt.
As a mother, I ache for the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and grandparents in Pakistan whose lives are shattered by the loss of so many children.
As a mother, I say leave the kids out of it. Get your battles out of the schools and off the playgrounds.
As a believer, at this time of year, I say, Come O Come Emmanuel.
Having just survived the terrible twos for a second time, I’ve had plenty of advice from random strangers about how to raise my toddlers. Don’t get me wrong, there have also been many kind people in the grocery store line-up who have sent an encouraging smile my way mid-tantrum. I’ve learned to develop a thick skin for the people who take it upon themselves to give me their “helpful” unsolicited advice. I polled my Facebook friends to see if they had similar experiences.
Here are some of the best (worst) things my friends and I have heard mid-tantrum:
- “My children didn’t do that. I had a 2-year-old AND newborn twins.”
- “My grandchildren don’t do that. And there’s four of them. And my daughter home schools them.”
- “Wow! He’s really upset!”
- “You should really be more consistent. That would nip this in the bud.”
- “Can I give him a piece of candy?”
- “Keep your cool.”
- “Get that kid to shut the hell up!”
- “She has a very loud scream.”
- “What a shame. He’s so cute.”
- “You are horrible parents for not buying your kid that toy.”
- “Oh my heavens!” (said with a patronizing, disgusted look)
- A friend’s toddler was screaming near a hotel elevator. A woman thought my friend and her husband were abducting their own child. My friends had to scream and get help from strangers to restrain the (elderly) woman who was convinced they were kidnappers!
So what would be helpful for a parent who’s dealing with a screaming child in public? How about:
*An empathetic smile
*”That is a tough age.”
*”Can I help carry your groceries?”
One by one we can support other parents and drown out the dreaded, unhelpful grocery store comments!
Leave your best “things people say when my toddler is screaming” in the comments below. Soldier on, mommas.
“I don’t really like my three-year old.”
“Sometimes I hate my child and then I feel terrible for thinking that.”
Both of these comments were whispered to me by friends. I admit I’ve thought similar things during my not-so-shiny moments of parenting.
I usually refrain from posting whiny, complaining-type posts and tend to focus on the sweet things my kids do. I complain a lot about sleep but try not to be that bitter mother whose kids bring more grief than joy.
But some days just suck.
The other night my husband kept texting, “leaving any minute” “be home soon” “just waiting for the bus” and it was almost 7:00 before he got home. I’m not sure if I was tired, the kids were tired or if it was a full moon, but by the time he walked in I was ready to walk out.
I get to the end of my rope regularly. Life with young children jumps from amazing and awe-inspiring one moment to out-of-control and exasperating the next. I have an up and down personality and my highest highs are followed by crashes of the lowest lows, all within one rotation of the minute hand on the clock.
The other day my children were playing together on the top bunk in my son’s room. They cuddled on the pillows with their stuffed animals and blankets, both giggling and squirming around like Labrador puppies. My son made his little sister laugh hysterically and she tickled him under his chin and teased him back; a real sibling love fest. I smiled and felt all warm inside and proud of the beautiful healthy kids I was raising. All was well.
Seconds later I turned away to brush my teeth and the whole scenario cratered. Laughs turned to screams. Giggles turned to cries. Snuggles turned to grabs and pushes. Toys flew across the room. My heart raced and blood boiled as I jumped to separate the two before someone fell off the bunk. Both kids were crying. It was the end of the world, in preschooler land. It was one of those moments when I just wanted to quit.
Growing up, if I didn’t like something, I quit. I quit competitive swimming, gymnastics, ringette, art classes and who knows what else after a few years each because I wasn’t a star at them. My world was very black and white. Do the enjoyable and easy things that I could excel at. Avoid the difficult things. That philosophy was fine when there was just me to worry about. It even worked with my husband in the picture, for the most part.
The months (and years) after becoming a mother were the hardest of my life so far. I’m not really sure how I made it through those years of terrible sleep deprivation. My fierce love for my newborn son (and then three years later, my daughter) taught me that just because something is really, really hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. The wondrous little children that were created and carried and loved and rocked and fed, sometimes with my tears blending in with theirs, are mine to keep.
It’s okay to want to quit. Anyone who tells you parenthood is blissful perfection is a liar. It doesn’t mean you love your children any less. Parenting babies and young children is like riding a ferris wheel that never stops. There’s no smiling man at the bottom to push a button if you want to get off to catch your breath.
Embrace the high highs and perfect moments, fleeting as they may be. Breathe them in and take lots of pictures. Cuddle up to your son’s snuggly warm cheeks. Trace your daughter’s dimples with your finger and hold her tiny feet in your hands. Freeze the perfect moments in your memory so you can bring them back to your mind during the times when everyone is screaming, you are trudging through a dreary day and your ferris wheel is scraping the bottom again.
The next time you have a day when you want to quit, take a deep breath and hold on. The rough times will pass and the view really will turn back to beautiful.
*A version of this post was published on Scary Mommy on July 23, 2014.
In Developmental psychology, the age of reason is the age when a child is capable of carrying on complex conversation with an adult, usually around seven or eight years old. My BA was full of psychology courses but all the textbook reading and expert opinion comes alive as I actually watch my own children go through the different stages.
My son is turning six this week and I can see glimpses of the age of reason popping up all over the place. Suddenly we are having conversations about death, about right and wrong, about why some daddies don’t live in the same house as the mommies and kids. I watch my son thinking about the things he overhears me saying to my husband and I’m more careful when I talk, knowing that he misses nothing.
The sweet filter of innocence is starting to fray around the edges as my son realizes that not everyone is kind and good and not every story ends the way he thinks it should. I’m torn as to how I feel about his approach to this new age and stage.
On one hand, I adore finally having more in-depth conversations with him; conversations that go beyond, “Can I have some juice?” and “Mom! My sister broke my Lego!” It’s been almost six years of baby and little-kid conversations and it’s nice to change things up. It’s exciting to see my son maturing and taking on little bits of responsibility all by himself. “It’s okay, little sis, I’ll get your dolly for you.” and “Mom, today I took my friend to the office because someone hit him in the face.” I wonder, is this stage a reward for a mom who’s talked about only snacks, toys, sleep and bodily functions for six years?
On the other hand, it breaks my heart. Walking up the hill from kindergarten the other day we had our first conversation about death. “You mean everybody dies, Momma? But I don’t want to die!” The look on his face almost finished me off then and there and I realized that this was just the beginning of the tough discussions. Ready or not, they are here. I hope that the listening and responding I do now will be good practice for when he is a teenager and the questions get even harder.
I saw the best quote on Facebook last year that has stuck with me:
Visit Momma Be Thy Name today to see my post in her 12 Days of Christmas. Comment and you will be entered to win some great prizes!
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Today marked the beginning of Momma Be Thy Name’s Twelve Days of Christmas. It’s really only five days this year but who’s counting?
Make sure to check in all week for some fun Christmas posts, including one by yours truly on Thursday, December 19th.
You can comment each day on that day’s post. Just by leaving a comment, you’ll have a chance to win goodies:
- Kindle Fire HD 7″
- Hallmark 2013 Keepsake Ornament
- Godiva Gold Ballotin
- Monsters University on Blu Ray or DVD (Winners’ choice)
- $25 Target Gift Card
I’ve been at home with you since you were born, over five and a half years. The longest I’ve been apart from you is three hours for a few mornings a week of preschool and the odd shopping trip, movie night or weekend away. I’ve never had the opportunity to miss you on a daily basis.
There were many days when it was rare for you to be more than an arm’s length away from me. We were together a lot.
When your little sister was tucked in for her afternoon nap, we built Lego. You soaked up the time alone with me. We had two overloaded drawers of Lego and two hours of quiet; our silence punctuated only by, “Can you find Batman’s head?” and “I need help getting these pieces apart!” and “Don’t look! I’m not finished yet!” Sometimes I’d doze off on your bed while you built. You didn’t mind. My presence was what you wanted.
You are in kindergarten now. I think you are doing okay. I hope so. I try not to worry that you might be playing alone at recess. I pray.
Now when your sister naps you aren’t here. I have a glorious two hours of time to myself, time I’ve been looking forward to for months. It’s a treat, but I do miss you.
Our Lego time is on the weekends or in the evenings now. It’s far more meaningful.
Our laughter together is louder and mine more genuine when you announce “I tooted Momma!” or some other silly thing.
I listen to you more carefully when you chatter away happily about school because I haven’t been listening to you all day long.
I don’t mind when you charge into the house after school like a runaway train, your backpack, bike helmet and Superman lunch bag flying around the living room. The mess is the only one you’ve made all day.
I see you, really see you, when you look at me. I’m more curious about how you feel because I haven’t been there all day to hear what makes you sad or excited or angry.
I’m more willing to answer your endless “why?” questions because I haven’t had a steady stream of them like I used to.
When we sing our off-key bedtime duets to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and The Rainbow Song I think our voices mixing together may just be a little preview of what heaven sounds like.
When I wake up in the night and you’ve snuck into the middle of the big bed, with your little breaths and your hair that smells like sunshine, your arm flung on my back, I think about how lucky we are to have a snuggly nighttime visitor for a little while longer.
You give me loud, smacking kisses on my cheek. You hug me tighter and neither of us lets go as fast as we used to.
This kindergarten thing is not so bad. It’s exactly what we needed. I love you.
(An earlier version of this post was published on The Purple Fig.)