Category Archives: Parenthood

How to parent my daughter who's just like me

Haley Beach

Her emotions wear a cape, soaring her high out of reach where I can’t bring her back close to me. From far away she looks at me with helplessness, “Mom, help me. I don’t know what to do! I feel out of control! I am losing my mind!” We both wait for the wind of exhaustion to gently bring her down into sleep.  Rest restores her body and mind back into control.

She’s just like me. Except she’s only six-years-old and hasn’t figured out how to control her HaleyandMeemotional power. I’ve had 34 years of experience and seven years of therapy to help me reign in my emotional squalls, and even still it’s hard work to maneuver the stormy winds of anxiety, panic, and fear. My daughter, Haley, and I are two highly-anxious, perfectionist-peas in a pod.

Lately I’ve been at a complete loss as to how to parent a child like me. I spend a lot of energy either trying to soothe Haley’s emotional tirades or reacting with my own rants out of sheer frustration. I’ve taken her to the doctor to rule out physical ailments and am currently researching behavioral health support. Nothing feels right. I have been praying for guidance as to how to get my daughter the coping tools she needs now so she doesn’t end up like me later–feeling out of control and coping through disorder.

My friend Andee recently wrote a post called Just Like You–A Post for Mother’s Day, and she describes the curse-turned-to-blessing of having a daughter just like her. It was Andee’s insight into her daughter that has given me insight into mine. She describes her daughter, Annika, as one who “not only wears her emotions on her sleeve, but all the way down her maxi dress. She has no poker face and tells you exactly what she’s thinking. Early on, Annika’s tranquil mood turned to tantrum within seconds and rage would strike out of the blue.”

I can literally insert Haley’s name in for Annika’s. But rather than trying to “fix” her daughter’s emotional outbursts to avoid future demise, Andee offers a listening ear and reassuring love.

I realized I have spent so much energy on trying to fix Haley to avoid future angst, that I have lost a grip on who Haley is and what she needs right now. My daughter doesn’t need fixing. She needs love, understanding, and reassurance (just like I do). That’s how to parent a child like me. Hello, answer to prayer.

Yesterday, Haley was depressed, unfocused and exhausted. She was getting sassy in her tone with me and tipping into the rage-red zone. Taking my cue from Andee’s insight, I asked, “Did something happen at school today? What’s wrong?” Turns out she got stuck on top of the jungle gym at recess. She was scared to fall; her classmates were encouraging her, but it was embarrassing; she was worried she wouldn’t get down before the bell rang for class; and she was confused because she’d never been scared up there before.

Well, no wonder she was upset! For a six-year-old, getting stuck on top of the jungle gym makes for a rough day. I hugged her and affirmed her feelings and told her I loved her. What a scary and stressful experience! I wish I could say she magically felt better and we lived happily ever after the rest of the night. Her mood didn’t improve, and actually it got worse, but I kept my cool and just let her be how she needed to be. IN accepting her emotions toward her situation, I was better able to love on her despite her coldness toward me. I trust in time she’ll learn to trust me as I parent in love rather than “fixing.”

HaleyMath

I see, now, Haley is just like me– creative, generous, compassionate, funny, intelligent, and intuitive. She’s a thinker and a creator and an achiever. This week she’s written two books, crafted three songs, made me multiple presents and cards for Mother’s Day, encouraged her older brother, and has given her best in everything she’s done. Her future looks much brighter from this angle!

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Getting to know my kids–through their eyes

In the midst of the heaviness of the past week, my kids and I had a spontaneous moment of creative explosion. I am not what you would call a “craft mom.” The extent of my craftiness doesn’t shoot far beyond markers and tape. If I am feeling particularly adventurous, I might get out some glue and possibly glitter. My daughter, who is an artist at heart, has become quite clever and independent with the few and random supplies that fill her art drawers.

The other night in an attempt to busy my hands and mind with something that didn’t require too much cerebral investment, I decided to create a vision board for myself. This vision board was actually supposed to be a “support activity” for the holistic health cleanse I had completed a week prior. I just hadn’t ever gotten around to doing it.  I sat down in the middle of my living room floor with two Sunset Magazines and a pair of scissors. I took my time paging through and finding images and words that I found soothing and inspiring.

IMG_20140521_203052It wasn’t long before my kidlets came bounding in wondering what the heck mama was doing–making a mess with scissors and paper!? In the middle of the living room to boot! They wanted in on the action. So I gave them each a pair of scissors and a magazine. Away they went for nearly two hours … flipping and snipping pages, holding up images with “Mom! Look at this one!” “Oooo, I like this one. Look, Mama!” They eagerly shared with each other the images they found, giggling at an advertisement with giant buffaloes, cooing at another with a soft, grey kitten.

IMG_20140521_202632Of course, true to their natures, they had completely different collections of pictures. Sean was drawn to more open fields and oceans; modern and symmetrical interior environments. Haley trended toward forests and wildflowers; cozy and eclectic living spaces– and also pretty food. They both, however, an affinity for nature scenes. 🙂

Sean chose not to have any words for his vision board while Haley got discouraged not being able to find the words she wanted for hers. When I suggested to Haley she just find the letters to spell the words she wanted, it was like I had introduced a whole new IMG_20140521_202634creative experience. She was delighted hunting for the perfect letters to spell what was on her mind!

It was inspiring for me to watch them share what they found to be inspiring for them. This activity helped me peek into their minds a bit and get to know each of my kids just a little better in a different way.  Haley is detailed and thoughtful and  deliberate. Sean is quick yet certain; he finds humor in almost everything yet is breath-taken by nature’s beauty and loves the family/group dynamics of wild animals.

True to my “crafy” nature we got out the tape and plastered the images all over our walls. You certainly won’t find our decor idea in a Pottery Barn magazine; however, I do hope you might experience a story or painting sparked from one of these boards. In fact, the next morning, Sean woke up in a near panic “Mom! I need to write a story! I need paper–lots of it!”

Sure enough, the kiddo wrote a flash fiction story about a mama bear and her two cubs, one of which got lost– and eventually found again for a wonderful reuniting and a happily ever after.

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Sean’s vision wall: lower left is the buffalo ad; bottom right is mama bear with two cubs.

Haley's vision board: lower left; blue-eyed, grey-haired kitty. Lower right; cozy 'eksulent' outdoor space. ;)

Haley’s vision board: lower left; blue-eyed, grey-haired kitty. Lower right; cozy ‘eksulent’ outdoor space. 😉

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My vision board filled with sunset colors, tropical zeal, romantic settings, and action words.

A welcome interruption

Through the early morning dimness, I could see my daughter’s little blonde head moving through the kitchen toward me. “Hi mama.”

“Good morning, Sugar Bear.”

Sensing she was invited to join me under my blanket of silence, she crawled up onto the couch and snuggled in tight next to me.

“It’s good to see you, honey; you’re up early today. I miss you when we sleep.”

She looked up into my face and gave me her classic smile,  revealing the tiny gap

Classic smile!

Classic smile!

between her two front teeth. She leaned her head on my arm.

She said, “I woke up and saw that your door was closed, but then I saw the light down the stairs, so I knew you were down here and I came down to see you.”

“I am so glad you did. You can always count on me being downstairs when you wake up. I get up super early to talk to God and read the Bible. Would you like to know what I am reading this morning?”

“Sure.”

“Today I was led to Philippians 2: 1-4.” I adjusted my Bible so she could see my finger move along the words.

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

“Oh, oh! I get it, mama! You can’t just think of your own self, you have to think about other people.”

“That’s right, Sugar. We have to think of others and show love to other people and do it joyfully.”

“I know, like if you have a present and someone is sick, you don’t keep the present for yourself. You give the present to the sick person.”

“That’s right.”

“Or if someone doesn’t have flowers and you do have flowers, you don’t keep them for yourself, you give them away.”

“That is also correct. Keeping them all for yourself is selfish if you know someone doesn’t have any flowers. Or you can show you love and kindness to someone by giving them flowers.”

Haley grinned. “Oh I have another one!  If someone doesn’t have toys and you have lots of toys, then you give all your toys away.”

“Say, I bet you could lead a whole Bible study on this,” I said, giving her a squeeze.

“Mama? Is this Bible different than the other Bible in my cupboard?”

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She’s my snuggle-bug.

“Oh you mean your children’s Bible? Well, both Bibles are the same, but yours is written in kiddo language and mine is written in grown up language. But you seemed to understand mommy’s pretty well!”

She grinned at me. “Yeah. I get it.”

“Anytime you feel uncertain or curious or sad, you can just read the Bible to help you know what you are supposed to do. God tells us in here how to live our lives. You can read yours or mine or if you want help, you can just ask me to read.”

“Are you almost to the end of this book, mama? It is really long!”

I laughed. “No. The Bible never really ends, Sugar. It is a book that takes a lifetime to read  because there is so much to learn in all the verses. And sometimes the verses mean different things at different times of your life.”

“Oh. Can I watch Disney Channel now?”

 

I gave away 99% of my kids’ toys–The Update

Two months ago I gave away the majority of my children’s toys. I became frustrated with my kids always asking for more things, not acknowledging and/or often disrespecting the nice things they did have.  Not to mention there was constant fighting over the toys they did play with.

The lesson I was hoping for  after giving away 99% of my kids’ toys:

We want  our kids to become more appreciative of each other, what little they do have, and the gifts they receive at Christmas, birthdays, and other random times of the year.

I wish for their hearts to seek and find joy in all they have and do without the yearning for more, bigger, or better things.

It would be great to tell you that my kids magically learned their lesson and they never ask for anything, never fight, and only think about others all the time.

The truth is, my kids still ask for things. My kids still fight with each other. My kids still (accidentally) break their toys and leave them lying around. Because they’re kids… hang with me. Ready?

We have definitely experienced some great changes. My kids have learned to become creative with their time, building forts, constructing structures and tracks from Dominos, creating homemade jewelry and other artsy projects, and fashioning headless-man costumes out of Life Cereal boxes.

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My son rarely asks for things at the store anymore, and my daughter has become more aware of the concept that things cost money. When I took her to the shoe store, she was concerned about liking shoes that were too expensive.  She said, “Mom, maybe you could give me some choices that I could pick that don’t cost too many dollars.”

Both have grasped the concept of giving toys away to others who might enjoy them. They recently came across a Lego plane they had chosen to keep when we did the big clean out. Haley remembered a friend at school who loves Legos and asked if she could give it away. With Sean’s blessing, she wrapped it in a bag and gave the plane to a friend at school… who adored it and wrote Haley the sweetest thank-you note!

But we have also experienced some not-so-great and unexpected changes, like an addiction to computer games. It started out educationally enough. Sean’s teacher had recommended Sheppard Software for math, science, and reading games appropriate for all ages. My kids love this site and, for a while, did well in playing together:

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Yet, somehow computer time has slowly morphed into a time-suck obsession with other games like Plants vs. Zombies, Disney Princess Dress Up, and various editions of Angry Birds. I’m not even sure how they found these games or knew how to play them. I find myself setting time limits and boundaries and mediating new kinds of arguments.

Also, while toy-clutter has cleared up, we now have art, art supplies, games, and books all over the place. I’m learning that getting kids to clean up after themselves seems to be universal and never-ending parenting woe. 🙂

The biggest lesson, however, in all this was my own. I have learned I need to have more grace for my kids. I had some grown-up expectations for my five-year-old girl and seven-year-old boy.

One night Haley was trying to tell me about a Cinderella carriage bed. I could tell she was nervous to tell me about it, but I invited her to open up about what was on her mind. “Mom, can I show you on the computer what it looks like? It looks so fun and cozy and I could play in there with my puppies. Please can I show you? I am not asking for it now, but maybe for Christmas next year?”

“Okay. But why for Christmas? Your birthday is closer.”

“Because it might cost a lot of dollars, so Christmas is a longer time to save up for it.”

I felt bad that Haley was apprehensive to tell me about her wish. When I saw the

Carriagebedcarriage bed online, I had to admit that I remember wanting fun, cozy, fantasy places to play in. To set up house with my stuffed animals and toys and make little beds and just escape into my imagination.

Kids wish and dream and imagine and play. They want and ask for the toys and accouterments they think will support the fun they imagine in their heads. It’s part of being a kid.

As for appreciating their things and thinking of others — I had to remember it took me until my young adult years before I truly understood the value of earning and owning my things. Not to mention, it took even longer appreciate life beyond materialistic desires. Gratitude and appreciation take time and practice to learn. Mistakes happen along the way, followed by humility and understanding. At 33 years old, I’m still learning… and so will my children.

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My li’l superheros in Bed Bath & Beyond

Instead of focusing on where my kids’ hearts weren’t up to par (with my expectations), I switched my perspective around to focus on their young hearts as they are. What I found is that while my kidlets wish for and ask for things for themselves, they’re often concerned and soft-hearted for other people. And they do notice when they are fortunate…

Haley mentioned the other day how she was lucky because she ended up with two rainbow Band-aids for her art project when everyone else only had one.

She also shed tears for the homeless who only have the cold streets for their bed… followed by the request to “Please, can we buy them a house. We have one, so why can’t they.”

Sean called me out when I got impatient with a woman who was walking in the middle of the road while I was driving. “Mom, she is elderly. You have to have grace and patience. I bet she is walking to the senior home.”

Giving away my kids’ toys certainly changed some things in our household, but not quite in the way I expected. I’d consider it a good decision and a highlight in my parenting journey. In trying to guide my kids’ hearts for good, I became more aware of my own– and how to be better for them as their mom.

DominoTracks

Lunar Calling

Sleepy child cannot sleep;
Fit and fever keeps slumber at bay.

Tears stream down sweet, pallid cheeks;
he calls for Mommy seeking peace.

Covers to chin, tucked warm and nestled;SleepingSean
Mama’s touch invites gentle comfort.

Tender fingers across his brow, low humming lullaby fills the dark;
Sleep summoned Mama’s way.

Maternal nostalgia of newborn nights seeps through clear memory;
Precious peanut seven years past.

Lunar calling fills Mama’s heart;
A mother’s work is welcome relief.

A shining star upon angst of darkness is Mama’s love upon troubled needs.

Sickness abates and lullaby fades;
Sleep arrives, dreams begin to play…