Category Archives: parenting

The hardest thing

I’ve determined what the hardest thing about being a parent of young children is.

Diapers? No. Wiping noses? No. Wiping bums? No. Wiping sticky residue from faces and floors? No. Settling skirmishes? No. Settling the same skirmishes over and over and over again? No. Instilling manners? No. Molding hearts? Teaching and showing the love of Jesus every day, all day? No.

Wait for it.

The hardest thing about being a parent is watching children “craft” by gluing layer upon layer upon layer of paper scraps, tissue paper, cloth scraps, yarn and gems WHILE RESISTING URGES to straighten everything out AND sweep everything into the trash.

Hardest. Parenting. Non-move. Ever.

 

A lovey that isn’t so lovely

DSC04824

A fuzzy photo of someone else’s Patty the Penguin, because LO’s is currently napping.

Kids become attached to the darnedest things: a ragged blanket, an over-tired teddy bear, a torn sweatshirt, a stuffed Patty the Penguin giveaway from La Senza Girl? 

I was hope-hope-hopeful that LO would skip over the phase where she’d want/need to be in constant contact with a “lovey” (I think parents call them “loveys” because somehow that makes germ-infested items more palatable in our minds).

So much for hoping. About five months after she first saw the years-old stuffed animal used to entertain her during a baby-sitting session with her cousin, LO realized the “awesomeness” that is Mr. Penguin, and she looooooves him.

Pets him. Snuggles him. Bites him. Holds him out for people to kiss. She loves him so much that Momma and Daddy have determined that he* is a VERY sleepy lovey that must stay in her bedroom and catch up on sleep while she goes about her day.

So far she hasn’t complained. But, really, what choice does she have? I think she looks forward to her nap/bedtimes knowing she’ll get to hang with her very best pal.

Her very mangy, very best pal.

Praise the Lord for the handwash cycle on our washing machine!

*Oops. Penguin is a girl? Should’ve read “his” butt tag before we started calling him Mr. Penguin.

Tagged , , ,

So, let’s talk about postpartum feelings

Some of you have read this post before. If you’re in my circle of family and close friends, you’ve already seen this. I’m sharing it again in this medium because I think I think all moms and moms-to-be benefit when other moms share their real after-birth feelings.

I wrote this a few months back when my kiddo was 3 weeks old, because my DH (dear husband) said it might be cathartic to do so. He was right.

While I’m feeling 110 percent better, maybe my thoughts will help some of you.

I’m quite sure LO (little one) did some growing this week along with other cute things, but I was stuck in some weird emotional state that left me crying one moment and worrying about the dumbest thing the next.

So, let’s talk about postpartum feelings.

Namely, how much they suck. I can cry anytime, anywhere. Don’t believe me? Try me. Go ahead, call me up and try me. One moment I’m happy as a clam and loving on my sweet LO. The next moment I’m weepy and wondering what the heck I’ve gotten myself into. I can cry while changing a diaper. I can cry while looking at my LO. I can cry while looking out the window.

I’ve done all three. Separately and simultaneously.

I remember the births of my girlfriends’ children and how everything was sunshine, lollipops and teddy bears. I heard about how much they loved their child. How wonderful mommyhood was. How they could hardly wait to think about having more children.

No one talked about feeling overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time. About the uncertainty of what to do with a newborn. Of the boredom that ensues. Of the bloodcurdling screams and the inability to get any soothing mechanisms to work. Of the lack of control.

That’s what I miss the most. Being in control. No one controls a newborn. You can read every baby book under the sun and gain all sorts of examples of how to care for your kiddo, but the author never shows up to take your child off of your hands for an hour, allowing you to go back to bed or do something non-child related.

While speaking—sometimes in tears—with my girlfriends recently, I’ve learned their entry days and weeks into mommyhood weren’t as sunshine-filled as I had previously thought. They, too, shed tears, shared doubts, felt overwhelmed and were certain they’d never again gain control. In sum, raising a newborn was the hardest thing they’d ever done.

The hardest and most worthwhile. It’s just sometimes hard to see the worthwhile part while riding a rollercoaster of emotions on the way down from a hormone high. Stupid hormones.

Oh, how I miss feeling normal.

Their advice? Go create a new “normal.” Get out of the house! Go for a walk! Meet a friend! Join a mommy group! Just go! Do something! Do anything!

Most importantly, talk about how you’re feeling. Because admitting you feel off is the first step toward feeling right again. And, you know, what? They’re right.

While I miss being in control and sometimes find myself in tears wondering what exactly is it I’m crying about, I know that I’ve been blessed with a beautiful LO. And LO is continually teaching me that I don’t need to be in control of all things all day long. It’s OK to have a messy living room (ugh!) and a pile or two of dirty laundry (egads!). It’s OK to not straighten the bed every day. Didn’t wash my hair? Not a problem. And—a big one—couldn’t get to the gym? That’s OK, too.

Really, it is OK.

Because tomorrow is a new day with new adventures. The hormones aren’t for forever. But the love I have for my LO is. And knowing how much I love LO (and LO’s daddy) and look forward to watching LO grow makes it all worthwhile.

Every last annoying tear.

Tagged , , ,

Happy Mother’s Day to my mother!

Tell me the truth, Mom. Am I heavier now than when I was 2?

Dear, Mom,

I may no longer really fit on your lap these days, or even remember the days when I truly could, but I’ll always know and remember the love that you have for me.

Among many other titles, thanks for being:

  • my teacher,
  • disciplinarian,
  • spiritual leader,
  • shopping partner,
  • No. 1 Fan in the Stands,
  • prayer warrior,
  • conversation partner,
  • shoulder to cry on,
  • homework partner,
  • Cinnabon sharer and
  • praise giver.

Most of all, thanks for being my mom.

I love you!

Jill

Tagged

A letter to my dad

Thanks, Dad. For being my dad.

Hi, Dad.

With Father’s Day approaching, I’ve been thinking long and hard about all the wonderful father-like things for which I can applaud you. And, I have to say, I’m coming up short. Not because you haven’t been a wonderful father. But because you’re not the Hallmark-greeting-card dad everyone thinks of when they think of Father’s Day.

For that, I couldn’t be more grateful.

You’ve been my dad for 29 years now. That’s a long time for you to be a dad and for me to be a daughter. For the record, I think we’ve been doing an a-OK job at both. However, I don’t think I’ve been doing such a great job of telling you how much I love and appreciate you. Or how glad I am that God chose to give me to you instead of some other random male being.

Thanks, God!

When I was home last, I found the scrapbook I created my senior year of high school. Do you remember it? I went through all of our family photo albums and removed so many pictures that any stranger who leafed through one would think you and Mom never had a daughter. Sorry, Mom. Inside the scrapbook, I found an assignment that I’d completed for Advanced Senior English, where I collected quotes from random individuals regarding advice on living life. Your advice?

“Work hard. Then work harder.”

You’ve spent your entire lifetime working. Working for your parents. Working to provide for your wife and children. Working to run a farming operation. Working to keep yourself busy. Working. Working. Working. I don’t fault you for this. You were a product of your environment, raised to work a lot and to work hard. And, I appreciate you working to provide me with opportunities that I may not have had otherwise. Thank you!

Now that you find yourself working a bit less than you’d like, and possibly contemplating retirement, I hope that you’ll take some time to at least consider the benefits of working less (like visiting me!) and simply enjoy more. Because, you’ve certainly earned it.

I hope more than anything, that on this particular Father’s Day, you know how much I love you. And, how blessed I am to have you in my life. I also hope that you have some Peanut M&Ms in the house, because there weren’t any there the last time I was home, and there are few things on this earth that are more delicious than Peanut M&Ms.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

Love,
Jill

P.S. I did not mail a bag of Peanut M&Ms to your house, because they surely would’ve melted by the time the Canada Post shipped them out of the country.

Tagged

Documenting firsts

This accurately represents my right hand today and my right hand in third grade.

While digging through the boxes in my childhood bedroom closet today, I re-discovered my baby book. Baby’s Milestones: Birth to Seven Years.

A freebie from local businesses at the time, it’s banana yellow with orange polka dots and has an image of a sleeping baby in a bassinet on the front cover. It’s quintessential baby-bookish.

I remember when I first discovered the book years ago. Actually, I don’t so much remember discovering it as I remember being surprised by its contents. It was only partially-filled. And, I don’t mean partially-filled as in “Birth to 3.5 years,” but rather partially-filled as in “Birth to 18 months.” While those first 18 months were well-documented, the time that followed held nothingness.

I remember at the time deciding to cut Mom some slack. After all, I was the third child, and any information she could’ve provided would’ve been along the lines of “been there, done that,” and who wants to write about the same thing twice, let alone thrice?

Anyway, it all mattered not, because I was more than happy to help Mom out and fill in the rest of the information on my own. After all, who could possibly know me better than me?

Under Marks of Identification: Footprints & Fingerprints (left and right), I drew in toes and fingers. I drew baby-sized toes and fingers, and I drew present-day-sized toes and fingers. Why have just the baby-sized appendages shown? Wouldn’t readers appreciate present-day sizes also? Yes, surely they would.

Even then I was clearly on top of my rationalization skills.

Under First Trips, I described the beach (“fun”), the country (“live there”), the zoo (“been there”), the circus (“haven’t been there”), in a train (“no”), in an automobile (“yes”), boat (“yes”), airplane (“no”) and bus (“yes”). Judging by my wobbly cursive writing, I’m guessing I found this book when I was in the third grade.

Under Photographs, I traced my left hand, drew in fingernails and signed my name. You can never have too many outlines of your hands in your baby book. Nor can you have too many examples of your signature. I would’ve hated for my identity to be mistaken for someone else’s. Especially in my own baby book. It turns out I was just as concerned about my identity back then as I am today.

And, if you’re wondering, my current hand size now dwarfs my third-grade hand.

I left First Friendships blank. Sad, I know. Under Kindergarten, I listed my school and teacher and then I described my first day: “The first day of school was nerves for me.”

Of course, it was. Because I couldn’t spell. That would make any kindergartner anxious.

Under First Grade, I printed “very nervous” in giant letters. Under Second Grade, I wrote: “very very nervous.” We must not have explored punctuation, yet. And, I have to say, I’m glad that the book ended at second grade, because who knows just how much nervousness I would’ve described in the years following.

Next came First Experiences with Money, and mine were memorable. First allowance: “never.” First Money to Spend: “never.” First Money Saved: “never.”

Wow. All doom and gloom early on.

I must’ve lost interest in my memoir at that point, because I ended my additions there. There are no entries under Birthdays or Vacations or Favorites. No memories of Christmases, Activities Outside Home and School or Special Aptitudes. Perhaps I thought I’d save those for another day. Some day when I had more time. Or better responses.

I guess there’s always tomorrow.

Thanks for taking what little free time you had back then and documenting your memories, Mom. I think I’ll share mine with Justin, if you don’t mind. That way, he has some, too.

Tagged ,

Bubble-wrapped living

[Ack! WordPress is NOT letting me indent paragraphs today.]
I do not have children. Yet. As such, I cannot judge parents or their parenting skills. But, thanks to my time in higher education, I can applaud the writer of Time magazine’s article “The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting” for, again, calling attention to a most-troubling matter: helicopter parents. Hovering all around their wee ones, helicopter parents attempt to “look out” for their children by protecting them from, essentially, everything. Bad experiences. Good experiences. Life experiences. As babes, as toddlers, as school-aged children, as high schoolers, as college students, as adults, so on and so forth, these “children” are pampered and coddled and wrapped tightly in bubble wrap, limiting their ability to cross paths with bad things, and keeping them from experiencing life-on-their-own things. I have friends who are helicopter parents. I have friends whose parents are helicopter parents. They are so keen on keeping their children safe that they sometimes forget to let their children experience life unwrapped. I like to think that one day, should children cross my path, I’ll be a parent that guides, teaches, grows, disciplines and cheers on my child(ren). Not suffocates them. Anyway, read the article. It’s good.

Parenting by non-parents

Disclaimer: I’m not a parent.

But, I think I can safely say that parenting has got to be one of the hardest professions known to mankind. And the entire animal kingdom now that I think about it. Hands down. After all, you’re in charge of a whole ‘nother, live, squirming being, who depends on you for pretty much everything. I’ve sat on my fair share of babies (not literally) and changed more diapers than a 12-year-old whose youngest sibling is 10 should EVER have to change, so I feel pretty confident in making that claim.

A lot of my girlfriends now have children, and it’s been a joy to watch them go from carefree-single-woman to married-mother-of-[insert random number].

What is most interesting to watch are their attitudes. And how they shift once children come.

As non-parents, they knew everything there was to know about parenting. When walking through a grocery store, past a mother whose small child was rocking the shopping cart from side to side while screaming bloody-murder and holding onto a box of super-sugared cereal with a death grip, more than one girlfriend quipped, “Can’t that lady control her child?” Strolling by Penny the Pony on our way out, the sight of a small child mercilessly begging her parents for “Just one more pony wide, pwwweeeeeze?!” would cause eyes to roll and heads to shake.

It’s always the non-parents who really know the most about parenting. They know how to control children. How to calm them down. How to get them to do exactly what you want them to do. They know how to run an errand in under 30 minutes, small children in tow, quietly strapping themselves into their car seats by themselves—even helping one another. They know exactly how to get them to sit quietly at the dinner table, eat their vegetables and put all their toys away before bed.

Non-parents know how parenting works. That’s just the way it goes.

Until they actually become parents. And then they realize they’re not even entirely sure which way is up, what day of the week it is or aware that their shirt is on backwards and inside out. As is their small child’s.

And that’s about the same time they realize how stupid they were for judging another parent. And they pray long and hard that God will forgive them of all the bad thoughts they have ever had toward parents lest other single people have bad thoughts toward them and their seeming inability to parent.

I was walking through a shopping mall with one of my best friends a few days ago. We decided to sit down at one of those storefronts that are designed for desperate mothers and fathers, who need a break from tots pulling on their arms, begging for this toy or that toy. The storefront was filled with comfy couches and mountains of Playskool and Little Tyke toys.

“Remember how I used to walk through stores, see parents with screaming children whom they couldn’t control and say, ‘Seriously, why can’t they get a hold of their kids?'” asked Andrea, as we watched her 3-year-old run around in circles, yelling “Mommy! Look at me! Mommy! Look! MOOOOMMY!” at the top of his lungs.

I smiled. Both because her 9-month-old was waving at me while chewing on the mall stroller strap that surely hundreds of tots before him had chewed on and because I could definitely remember her doing just that.

“I’ve become that parent,” she bemoaned. “The one everyone hates because they can’t get their kid to hush. Ever. I’m a horrible parent.”

Dear Andrea. You’re not a horrible parent. You’re simply a parent. A parent who’s been blessed with live, squirming beings, who while partially trying and partially enduring, don’t exactly come with manuals. Unfortunately. But, you’re making up your own, and you’re doing just fine.

In fact, from where I’m sitting, as a non-parent, you’re doing one heck of a job. You won’t see me eye-rolling. Or shaking my head. No way, Jose!