The Heartache of the Fourth Birthday

Liam Turning Four
Liam Turning Four

In three weeks Liam will be four years old. I am not sure why this upcoming birthday has been so difficult for me. But if I talk about it too much or let my mind wander to him being four I tear up. It isn’t that I want him to be a baby again either. I much rather have him be the age he is now. We can play, talk, and interact with each other and have some real bonding moments. However, next year will be his last year in preschool and then he goes off to Kindergarten. That blows my mind. Where did the time go?

When Liam was born everyone said it goes fast and it wasn’t that I denied it, it is just unimaginable to me how four years evaporated away so quickly. My husband and I were just reminiscing this morning about Liam’s third birthday and what we did to celebrate. It seems like that was just a couple of months ago. How did a whole year slip away?

I took the kids for haircuts yesterday and when Liam was finished it took everything in my power not to start blubbering. His golden curly locks lay on the floor and there he was with a little boy haircut.   The transformation unfolded before my eyes and I was blown away.  To me it felt like a huge milestone had been made, but in reality it was just another haircut. An undeniable reminder of how big he has gotten.

On Friday Liam called for me and when I got there he said, “Look mom I wrote my name.” There he had written “Lia”.  I said to him, “That’s great but you are missing one letter.” He said to me, “I know mom, but I did not know how to write an “m”.” My heart soared. My son knew how to spell his name, but at the same time a little piece of me was sad. I was so proud, happy and every other positive word you could think of, but I didn’t even know he knew how to do that. He is learning something new every day. It is so much fun to see him learn and explore these new things, but it is also hard as I know these are the small pieces that are needed for independence.

Of course, I want him to develop learn and become independent, I just was hoping it would happen at a slower rate. I then think maybe no rate would be easy as it always going to be hard to slowly let go. But that is part of the process of growing up. Liam learning new things and mommy learning to let go. It is a beautiful bittersweet process for mother and son to learn together. He will teach me how to slowly let go and I will always be there cheering him on as his grows and learns. However, if he ever falls in the process of trying something new and he needs someone to pick him up, my arms will always be open.

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Yesterday I Lost My Patience

Yesterday morning started out like all other mornings.  I awoke to Ava calling for Mama from her crib which promptly woke Liam.  As I shuffled to Ava’s room I could here Liam stirring and knew soon the request for warm milk and brown sugar (oatmeal) would be coming.  Once my husband and I got through the morning rush of getting the kids what they needed and letting the dog out my husband had to run out for an appointment.

The kids and I went downstairs to watch Team Umizoomi and Ava got upset with me about letting Liam pick the first show and hit me.  I gave Ava a warning saying if she hit me again she would have to go into time out.  Ava hit me and I put her in time out.  This isn’t a recurring event still Ava has been put in time out before.  However, this specific incident sent her into a meltdown of epic proportions.

temperYou see Liam and Ava both have had their fair share of temper tantrums, but their ways of dealing with it are so very different.  Liam’s outbursts are not as often and due to his age much easier to reason with him. Even when we was younger, if you took the approach of ignoring the tantrum, he would quickly pull himself together and then explain what was upsetting him.  However, with Ava it is very different.  Sometimes her tantrums seem to come out of nowhere and once she begins there is no quelling it.  No words of comfort, cradling, and attention will soothe her.  In fact, the only way to calm her is to let her escalate herself to such a frantic hysterical state it eventually tires her out and then looks for soothing.  As a mother this is not only very upsetting to observe, but it is also very draining.  These episode can last up to 40 minutes long and I sit helplessly by as she demands for certain things (glass of milk) and then right away refuses it.  Liam sometimes comes in and tries to do his part as well.  He will try to hug Ava or even make her laugh.  There have been a few occasions where this actually has helped, but for the most part Liam usually leaves the room saying that Ava is being too loud.

I have talked to a couple of professionals regarding this and it seems that the general consensus is that this is very typical toddler tantrum behavior.  Even though that is reassuring to know in those moments of helplessness it is very hard to see past it.  This particular tantrum lasted 35 minutes.  When it ended I had Ava in my lap rocking her.  Once she was calm she crawled down and joined her brother in playing.  Most of the time during these tantrums I stay super calm, speaking in a soothing voice while trying to create a calming environment for her (soft music playing, dimmed lights, warm milk).

Unfortunately, yesterday I did not deal with it so well.  I lost my temper and as soon as I did I felt terrible.  In the midst of Ava’s tantrum I noticed that her pull up was leaking and was leaving wet marks on the wooden hallway floor.  I quickly cleaned up and knew I had to change Ava.  This riled her up even more.  Screaming and kicking Ava was not letting me remove the diaper or put a new one on.  Many may think just let her stay in the oversaturated diaper.  However, unless I was going to follow her around with a mop until the tantrum was over she was getting the floors wet.  So there I was with her on her changing table kicking and screaming and I was struggling to get the new pull up on when I just snapped and yelled, “Ava will you just please let me put this diaper on you!”  She paused for a moment stunned and then screamed and kicked even harder.  Now not only had I just lost my patience, but I just made the situation worse.  Shortly after that she began to unwind and I rocked her until my husband got home.

In typical mommy fashion I have replayed this scenario in my head multiple times.  I am constantly trying to think of new ways to calm her faster and now this time I have the added bonus of berating myself for snapping at her.  As I have heard from many people, “this too shall pass”, and although I know that that is true, right now it does not give me much comfort nor help.  I just hope I can come up with Mommy/Ava solution so I can help her through this easier and I will not lose my sanity.

 

Tis the Reason for the Season

Although I do not get religious often in my blog entries, recently I had unsolicited advice given to me that I have been mulling over in my mind.

10511239_10205550299982838_804355285197842046_nTo say Liam is ecstatic about Christmas this year would be an understatement.  When we went to see Santa he had tears in his eyes and a big smile on his face.  Once he got on Santa’s lap he did not want to get off.  Ava doesn’t quite get it this year, but I am sure next year she will be the same way.  Watching the excitement I have to say has been very enjoyable.

However, a week ago when having a conversation with a woman I know she looked at my surprised when I told her about Liam and Santa.  She then said to me, “I thought you were Christian.  I am surprised you introduced Liam to Santa” I was taken back for a minute and I sputtered out, “Well why wouldn’t I?”

She then went on to explain how Santa and presents takes the focus off the real reason for the season.  I unfortunately was left a little speechless and didn’t say much back.

After a lot of careful thinking I approached her this week with my following thoughts.

Yes I introduced Liam and Ava to Santa, and although I had questioned myself I feel more confident now that I made the right choice.  Obviously part of the appeal of Santa are the presents and toys that he brings on Christmas Eve.  However, there is a much bigger role that Santa plays that we often overlook.  Santa teaches children to believe.  To believe in something intangible that they cannot touch or see.  For the exception of once a year where a child might get to sit on Santa’s lap, they never get to talk, play, or visit him, and yet children still believe.  I think we all overlook the importance of believing in something.  Whether it be Santa, or in Love, or in God, belief has the power to give us hope, faith, and strength so that we can get past hardships that we encounter.  I am in no way insinuating that without Santa people would have a hard time believing in God.   Nonetheless, I think Santa gives children an easier time in making that step to believing in a higher power when at a young age they practice in believing in Santa.  Like so many things in our life, belief comes from learning and practicing.  Whether we realize it or not every year that a child believes in Santa they are taking a leap of faith.  This foundation that is created I know helped me in believing and taking some leaps of faith in my own journey in life.

I understand to many Santa overshadows the true “Reason for the Season” and maybe he does.  Maybe I am guilty of letting that happen, but I can’t help but think that I am also opening my children’s minds and hearts to the possibility of something much larger than themselves, something that is beyond their understanding.  Even for adults there are times when our faith is shaken and our beliefs are questioned. So maybe if Santa does nothing else maybe he can bridge the path to believing in God a little easier.

A Gentle Reminder From a Special Child

I saw you in the store today and my heart went out to you. I on a rare occasion went food shopping alone and we first bumped into each other in the vinegar /cooking oil aisle. I saw you struggling as you were slowly losing your patience and I wished I could have made the others stop staring. Your son was knocking tuna cans to the floor and I saw an elderly woman shake her head in disapproval. I saw the embarrassment on your face and I wondered how do you do it.

Two aisles later we met again as we scoped out the different flavored coffees. Your son spoke loudly and you tried to hush him. I could tell you were in a hurry, no doubt trying to get through the store as quickly as possible. I had a moment thinking in my head, “Thank God that isn’t me.” I quickly felt selfish for thinking that and instead concentrated on being just thankful.

We ran into each one more time on the checkout line. You were in front of me quickly trying to bag your groceries as your son was having a breakdown. People stared and I noticed your hands shook as you quickly handed the money to the cashier. Your son began to dart for the door and you abandoned your cart to go after him. Once you got back I heard you say,“ You can’t run out of the store like that you can get hit by a car.” I realized how fearful and panicked you must feel on a rather frequent basis.

id-10034793When we have children we always think of our children as special, however for some that transcends to a whole another level. Special needs children are beautiful, loving, energetic, curious children, but unfortunately are seen as unruly, loud, misbehaving children. What makes matters worse many look onto the parent thinking, how can they let their children carry on like that? Of course there are the children who are truly defiant kids who need to be more obedient. However, sometimes it is not always that evident that a child is acting the way they are because of a social or mental disorder versus poor parenting. I know I have in the past been quick to judge and think, why would a parent let that happen? But today was a gentle reminder of the idea that, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view — until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” – To Kill a Mockingbird – Atticus Finch

The Art of Roughhousing

In the last couple of weeks the new game Liam and Ava like to play with daddy specifically, is wrestling. My husband roughhouses with them and they giggle, laugh, and eventually they tire out (which is key). It’s funny that they inherently know to go to daddy for this interaction.   They have never approached me and asked me to wrestle them. Although some people might warn that someone could get hurt I think that this is a very important process to go through.

Let’s face it when you are roughhousing every once in a while someone is going to get hurt. However, I can’t help but think that this might make them a little more resilient. Although there are times that I worry that it is getting too rough (and that is why they pick daddy over mommy) for the most part it teaches them to bounce back. Will is careful in his play and the kids always come back for more. Even though, this physical play can cause a few playoff-payoffbruises now and then, I think it outweighs the alternative of them being less active.

I also believe that roughhousing can help sharpen reflects. Kids have to think fast as they are rolling, pillow fighting, wrestling with dad. They are constantly changing their approach on how to defeat dad. Of course this is all done in good natured fun, but it still does take some problem solving skills to overcome him. This kind of play also teaches boundaries of what behavior is acceptable and not acceptable.

I am not a worthy competitor. Routinely as part of the game my husband drops the kids on their beds and they giggle with delight. The truth is I have tried to do this and my height on dropping the kids onto their bed is not as exciting as dad, who can lift them over his head. Daddy takes chances that either I would not do or physically are unable to do. Sometimes it is good to push pass the limit of normal active play just a little bit to be challenging and entertaining.

My husband is very involved in all aspects of Liam and Ava’s lives; however this is one specific activity that he just does with them. I think it is important that both Liam and Ava feel a bond between themselves and their father. In creating this bond, Liam and Ava will recognize that they each have a distinct relationship with their father in which it can develop into a very special parent-child connection.

I guess in short, if you are one of the many mothers who anxiously watch as a bystander as your kids and husband roll around and wonder is this ok? Consider what your kids might be getting out of it besides a few laughs and a good time with dad.

 

A Letter of Love

Dear Liam, Ava, and All Children,

I have three wishes for my dear children and really all children.  Be curious, passionate, and loving.

Liam and the Catepillar Be curious about the world around you.  Don’t shy away from things that are new and different.  Be willing to give these ideas a chance.  Step out of your comfort zone once in awhile, it will be worth a memory or at least a laugh in a few years.  Never stop asking questions.  Try new things and experiment with new ideas.  In exploration you not only find out new and exciting things, but you will find out new things about yourself.  With that learn who you are and love yourself for that.  Do not make excuses for the person you are.  You are wonderful and gifted in your own specific way.  It is hard to always feel comfortable with yourself.  However, if you can find peace and happiness with yourself, trust me you will know contentment that many others around only dream of.

Be passionate.  Find something or many things that drive and excite you.  Don’t let others Ava all smilestell you it’s not important or silly.  Whatever it is that lights you up, go for it and enjoy it.  Passions give us purpose, and drive us to work hard towards a goal.  Passions also make us feel that we have purpose in our lives. Being passionate isn’t just about knowing – it’s also about feeling. That’s what makes passions so important; they give us hope for a happy and exciting future.  Don’t hold back on your emotions.  Get excited.  Being passionate is a risk, but even if it doesn’t work out you will feel fulfilled.

And of course be loving.  Love with all of your might.  First learn to love yourself fully.  Once you can do this you will be able to give and receive love from others.  There will be different forms of love in your love.  Love of family, friends, a significant SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESother, but love these people entirely for who they are too.  Do not hold onto those who do not love you back in the same way.  You will be hurt at times from those you love.  Forgive and let go.  Don’t let those bad experiences ruin future opportunities to love.  To love is to be alive.  Do not be ashamed of your love.  To give love to someone is the sincerest gift you can give.  Love is what heals wounds and overcomes differences.

I love you both dearly and wish you both a lifetime of curiosity, passion, and love.

 

Love always,

Mom

The Phenomena of the Housewife

Desperate Housewives and all versions of the Real Housewives of Orange County, New York City, Miami, etc., created a new look on the housewife.  These shows could almost be deemed acceptable if they had stayed on our television screens and never seeped into our society.  Unfortunately, it has infiltrated our social norms.  Growing up as a child of a stay at home mother, my idea of a housewife was exhausting.  The stay at home mom was the caregiver, the cook, the tutor, the chauffeur, the maid, the seamstress, the dog walker, and too many other busy titles to list here.  However, somehow in the last 15 years the housewife has become a title for a woman who has perfectly manicured nails, a personal trainer, and more often than not a laissez-faire approach to raising her children.  Moreover somehow this new breed of housewife, has turned her children to an accessory right alongside the designer handbag.  This is not to say by any means this is by definition all housewives, however it seems to becoming increasingly popular.

This past weekend my husband and I took our children to the park. When we arrived there, there were three girls and two mothers.  The girls ranged in age from 8-10 and they were running about.  The two mothers were sitting at picnic tables on the other side of the park in the pavilion engaged in a deep conversation.  I had this moment of self-reflection as I looked at them.  They were so well put together, I was envious.  Even on a good day my hair and makeup never looked so pristine.  How did these moms manage it? Nearby the mothers was a water fountain that Liam asked me to lift him up to get some water.  I overheard them busily chatting about a dinner party one was planning and what the chef was going to cook.  I walked out the pavilion and toward the playground, ready to push Liam and Ava on the swings.

As we approached the swings the three girls yelled to Liam and Ava, “The babies are here.  You can’t play here.”  I felt a surge of anger at this but I quickly quenched it.  The girls continued to point and yell at Liam and Ava as they got on the swings, calling them babies and telling them they could not play.  Just then two other cars pulled into the parking lot and families with young children (younger than Liam) came out of the car.  The girls then carried on to say, “Look more babies.  They can’t come here.”  I glanced over to the two mothers who were now looking at their phones, unaware of what was going on.  As the families approached the playground two of the young children began climbing the jungle gym.  One of the girls quickly scooted in and intervened in front of the young children and said, “You can’t climb this.  You are just a baby.”  Staring at the two mothers who were oblivious to what was going on, the father shot back in a very loud and stern voice, “I don’t know where your parents are, but this playground is for everyone. Please get out of my children’s way, and play nicely.  You are being fresh.”  The mothers then looked up and called their daughters over.

There were many things about that whole interaction that shocked me.  When I was their age I was eager to be a mother’s helper and someday a babysitter.  This blatant superiority complex in such young children was unnerving to me.  On top of that, to see two mothers so disengaged with their children that they had no idea what was going on, seemed very irresponsible.  I understand as children get older they do not need their parents hovering over them.  But these mothers were so out of tune to what was going on they were completely clueless to how rude their daughters were behaving.  Now I am not insinuating that every well-manicured mother raises ill-behaved children, but it was Liam in Ava in their mud puddleevident that these mothers had fallen victim to the Housewifitis that has fallen over this country.  Designer handbags and expensive nights out on the town don’t translate to meaningful experiences for children.  It’s spending quality time with them, whether it is reading a book to them every night before they go to bed or running around in the backyard.  Our children are truly a reflection on ourselves.  I see it all that all the time with my kids.  The good and the not so good habits they have picked up from me.  They are only in each phase for so long before they move onto the next stage.  Although, I miss each one of the stages as they grow out of it, I continue to enjoy the new one they go into.  I couldn’t help but think that these mothers were missing all of that as I have a hard time believing involved and engaged parents would allow such behavior.  Money can’t buy happiness, nor will it buy you memories or manners.

Intent, Words, & Action – What It All Means

Actions speak louder than words. Liam the other day was in full out tantrum.  In the midst of it he told me to go away and that he didn’t want me.  He then further went on to shout that he wished daddy was there (And to be honest so did I).  I left him alone and a little while later he crawled into my lap unprovoked and hugged me.  His words said one thing but his actions said something totally different.  In the end he explained to me why he was upset and we worked through it. Even though Liam said that he wanted me to go away and he didn’t want me, at the end he was in my lap cuddling me. It was his actions that spoke louder and had a more lasting affect on me than his words, and this goes the same for adults.

On the contrary Ava this morning threw her water cup on the kitchen floor.    I made her pick it up and told her if she did it again, she would have to sit in timeout.  She then walked off into the living room.  I heard a thud and when I walked into the room there was the cup lying on the floor with her standing next to it smiling.  Her intent and action were very clear to me.  She was testing me.  She served her timeout, picked up her cup, and we ended it with a hug.

“What one does is what counts. Not what one had the intention of doing.” – Pablo Picasso   Nowadays whenever someone gets into trouble their first response is, “I never intended to be offensive”, “I never intended to hurt you”, “I never intended to cheat on you.” These simple statements are suppose to wash away the wrongdoing of the action and in doing so never taking responsibility for what the wrongdoer did.  Intention is not an apology.  Just because you did not intend to hurt someone doesn’t mean that you didn’t.  Apologize.

This whole ideology infuriates me and it happens all the time.  From celebrities to sports figures to people we know, it’s the get out of jail for free statement.  “I did not intend to hurt you.” There are two parts of this statement the really irks me.  One being that by saying that, the person is never truly taking responsibility for what they have done and the impact of their actions and/or words.  Two it comes across at times, as the hurt person is overreacting to what the wrongdoer has done and in a way diminishes their feelings.

We want our children to take responsibility, own their mistakes, and apologize when they are wrong, whether it was by accident or not.  But why should they when the people that they look up to are not?  When was it that the adults stop living up to the standards that they want their children to be at? We are always modeling to our children good and bad behavior. If we want our children to become responsible, apologetic, and forgiving adults we need to show them how to do so.

Actions speak louder than words and intention as well.   In the end we can give a lot of lip service on trying to explain why we do things, but it is our actions that have the lasting affect. No one is perfect (I have said this many times) but if you want to move on from whatever event that took place we need to face our problems and wrongdoings head on. If we can take responsibility for our actions and become apologetic for them, our children will be more apt to do the same as well.

The Top Five Things I Learned While Traveling With Toddlers

  1. It isn’t about you anymore. The two little people in my world called the shots on this trip. When they were tired we took a break. We rode the rides they wanted to go on (even if it meant the same one five times in a row), and we looked at the stuff they wanted to look at. Both my husband and I went into this trip not only aware of this fact, but happily followed their lead.
  2. Vacation brings on a new meaning. When my husband and I vacationed prior to children we slept in late, got eggs benedict for breakfast, had drinks with dinner, and went to bed late after seeing the sights. With kids it’s the exact opposite. Early wake up calls, waffles for breakfast, sight seeing till naptime or a meltdown whichever comes first, and dinner that evitably involves using your fingers to eat it. It might not be fancy and no passport is needed, but I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun.
  3. Like so many other things in life, it is the small stuff that matters.  I was so eager to experience Sesame Place with the kids and they loved it. But then there is the unexpected excitement as adults we forget.   When we got to the hotel, Liam and Ava ran around excitedly checking it out. On the second day when we needed a break mid-day we drove back to the hotel and went in the pool. They were overjoyed. As adults we unfortunately don’t get too many first time experiences so we tend to forget what it is like, but Liam and Ava quickly reminded me how great it is.
  4. There are lessons to be learned even when you aren’t looking for them. Going to Sesame Place was quite frankly a slam dunk for toddlers. The atmosphere and the whole agenda is geared to them.  I had a woman a couple of months ago scoff at me since it was not an educational vacation. Now having experienced this I would argue with her it was an educational experience. Maybe it was not one that ended in learning to read or multiply, but my children were constantly put to the test in patience as they waited on lines to go on rides, share with children in some of the interactive stations, and try new things. It might not be a book education, but I think we under estimate the importance of an education in manners and courtesy.
  5. It is Family Fun Time.   It was non-stop, all day, all night family togetherness. Now is the time to create the strong foundation of family. If we can establish a close knit feeling now, even when the going gets tough in the teenage years, they will always know that we have each other’s back.
    Liam and Zoe at Sesame Place
    Liam and Zoe at Sesame Place

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    Ava on the Merry Go Round

I am not going to lie; vacationing with toddlers is not easy. There were temper tantrums, accidents, and full out meltdowns (all which happened in public), but if you can roll with the punches and move past those moments you will discover so many wonderful things. I know that for the kids they had a great time, but for me and Will we created some memories I know we will remember fondly for years to come.

Forgivness of a Toddler

mistakes-forgiveness-peace

The other day Liam and I were wrestling with each other. In the middle of our rough housing I gave Liam a light push and he fell down. He scrambled to his feet very quickly, came up to me, shook his finger, and said, “Mommy you don’t push me.” I blinked a couple times in surprise, but then looked at him and said, “You’re right Liam. I’m sorry. Mommy was playing and she got a little too rough.” Liam gave me a big hug around my neck, kissed me, and said I forgive you. He then went back to tickling me.

If adults forgave like toddlers there would be no grudges, no resentment, and I truly believe that world peace could be obtained. Unfortunately, as adults even when we forgive we don’t forget. For some conflicts it may even be impossible to forget, but moving on without holding onto it, is key. By keeping a tally of all the wrongdoings someone has done to you, it only causes bitterness in your life. It weighs you down and whatever issue it was has won. For Liam the minute he forgave me it was in the past. I know he will not bring it up again when future problems arise as something to count against me. As adults even if we say we forgive, we hold onto it. We don’t let it go. We either bring it up in a future fight with a spouse as ammunition or use it as a reason to push away a friend. Regardless we are always looking for a way for the wrongdoer to “earn” their way back into our good graces.

The beauty of forgiveness, true forgiveness is the freedom you achieve from it. If you can’t forgive the wrongdoing because you are still hurt, try forgiving just for your own peace at mind and let those negative feelings go. One of the biggest problems with adult forgiveness is that we are too busy thinking about how we have been wronged and never try to see it from the other person’s point of view. When our children misbehave part of the lesson is to teach them what they did was wrong and how it affects other people. Ava took Liam’s toy. Liam got mad and hit her. Ava cried. It is important for Liam to realize that although Ava shouldn’t have taken his toy, hitting her was wrong and now she is sad too. How come we spend so much time teaching our kids to see how their actions affect others but we refuse to do it with our own problems?

No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. We all are in the wrong at times. “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.” Liam and Ava are constant lessons to me about the important things in life, such as forgiveness.  If we could walk into situations with a clean slate with people we might actually be able to enjoy things better and coexists in a better place. At the risk of breaking into song, I think Idina Menzel sung it best, “Let it go, let it go.”