Thursday, October 18, 2012

6 Hours

My next post was going to be about the number 6. You see Jack tends to forget 6 when he counts. This does not worry me in the least but Christian was a little concerned. I wanted to prove Jack was fine and so Jack and I had a talk about how number 6 was feeling excluded and could he please start using 6 when he counts. And now he does although sometimes he confuses 7 and 11. I was going to blog about how my belief is it doesn't matter if a three year-old can count or say his ABC's and that really it is just the parent's ego driving the desire to have their kids be able to do such things at an early age. A little self-righteous? Yes! A little mean? Most definitely. 

And instead I thought I would talk about 6 in a different way. I cannot remember the last time I got 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Can. Not. Remember. For me 6 hours is the magic number where I can be a decent person. Which basically means I have felt indecent over the last four years where I may get that amount of sleep three nights out of a month. And it leaves me the rest of you moms feel the same way or is this just me? 

My big accomplishment for today? I didn't sit down and cry in the middle of Jack's preschool drop off. Being just so tired that Grace throwing a fit about not wanting a jacket and Jack refusing to take off his pajamas and get dressed pushed me over the edge. I just wanted to sit down and cry. 

Now just writing that has me feeling judged. I guess that is because when I look at other moms they seem to have it all together. The beautiful family photo on their Facebook page. Their kid doesn't miss the 6. Their house is always cleaned and organized. They are dressed impeccably. They do crafts. They work full-time and still get it all done. They stay home and are actually grateful for the blessing. They would NEVER blog about feeling overwhelmed and exhausted because somehow they have it all figured out.

And I won't even talk about the guilt I feel just talking about this. I mean I live in the first world, in a pretty house in a nice town with a great husband and beautiful healthy children. Just saying that I am overwhelmed in spite of all this privilege makes me feel ungrateful and whiney. 

But the truth is that I am overwhelmed and sometimes even bored and isolated. I sometimes crave a paid job like a fat kid craves a doughnut. And somedays I just want someone else to do it all. And often I don't offer to host the play date because I don't want to feel judged by other women. And I pretend to be happy because God forbid I admit (on a blog for all the internet to see) that sometimes I am not very good at this job. 

But, when I get a full night of uninterrupted sleep I don't feel that way at all. And then I wonder, do the rest of you ever feel this way? Or is it just me? 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Sibling Love

I am completely in love with Jack and Grace. And it brings such joy to my heart to see them falling in love with each other. They are finally at the stage where they interact and play together. I love watching them create pretend worlds and fight over toys. Just like with any relationship their sibling love swings on a pendulum from infatuation to disgust. One minute they are snuggling on the couch and the next they are both screaming and throwing punches. Regardless Grace is eager to to be just like Jack. Jumping off the couch head first? Sure! Jack is doing it so it must be fun.

I am lucky to have a good relationship with my brother. It is one of the things I value as an adult. Interestingly, I feel absolutely no competitiveness with him. Anytime he is successful I am nothing but genuinely happy for him. I believe our relationship is solid because we were in the trenches together. We learned to work together and be a team at an early age and that has carried us into adulthood. As children in a low income family we were often left alone without a babysitter. Even at age 4 and 5 we would be left for 20 minutes late in the night between the time my dad left for his third shift job and my mom arrived home from her second shift job. I would sneak over to the window scared to death of being alone in the beaten-down trailer park. My brother would pop his head up from the twin bed we shared and tell me to close the curtain and get back in bed. We were each other's playmate and security.

I believe now is when the foundation for Jack and Grace's adult relationship is formed. It is my hope that I will not screw it up. I want Jack and Grace to be best friends. To share a love and bond that will carry them through life. And I see it as my job to encourage that relationship. I don't ever want either child to hear me say "why don't you do such-n-such like your brother/sister." I have also heard parents say that they love their children the same amount but in different ways. For me this doesn't fit either. I love them exactly the same. In that jump in front of a bullet, go to the end of the earth, give you my last bite of chocolate cake kind of love. And in truth if I raise them up and they don't end up friends, I will know it is a failure on my part.

Recently I was talking with my good friend Jen about how parents impact sibling relationships and she shared some valuable wisdom from her mother. Jen told me how anytime she has trouble with her sisters, her mother willingly listens. However, her mother refuses to say anything negative about her sisters. Her only comment being, "she is my baby too." As in, I love you and I love your sisters and I will not involve myself in gossip or negative talk about my kids. This was wonderful to hear as a mother of young children. A golden lesson about cultivating a loving relationship with and between children.

Not only is this advice applicable to my sweet babies but relates to any relationship I value. It is easy to be critical, to point out the negative in other people's character or actions. It takes discipline and maturity to keep your mouth shut. A lesson I have learned many times over the years.

I hope to apply Jen's mom's philosophy as my children grow. Not only will it strengthen their relationship with each other but they will have faith in me that I have their best interests at heart. After all if I am willing to say negative things about their sibling why would they ever trust me not to say bad things about them.

I am so excited to watch my sweet babies grow and form their relationship. To watch them discover the world together. To see how they help and hurt each other. To watch as this relationship teaches them to resolve conflict, to fight, to share and to love.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Picture Day

Today was Jack's first ever school picture day. I had big plans for what Jack would wear today. I even gave him choices. My three options were: 1) a sweater, 2) a button up shirt or 3) a button up shirt with a sweater vest. All three would have made for a picture the grandmothers would love.

Of course, I was running late this morning and needed to rush everyone to get dressed. However, I took a minute to lay out his three options. Then in my very motherly voice I threw out some Love and Logic. "Jack," I said, "which outfit do you want to wear for picture day?"

Jack very seriously replied, "Why do you want me to dress like an old man for picture day?"

In that moment all my stress vanished and I fell over laughing. Where does this kid get this stuff?

In the end Jack wore his NC State basketball jersey given to him by my brother. And he insisted that soft blanket and big dog ride to school with us.

This moment with Jack reminded me of a conversation with a dear friend a few years back before kids. We were talking about kid's fashion and how we would like to dress our future children. She said that she really didn't want her kid to wear cartoon characters and things like that. I jokingly responded that her kid would be the guy wearing Micky Mouse on his shirt when he was forty.

And now that I have a kid he wears Elmo, monster trucks and soccer balls on almost all of his shirts. And hopefully that freedom will teach him that I respect him enough to let him make his own choices now on the little things, so that he will trust himself enough later to make smart choices on the big things.

I think much of parenting is about picking battles. Did it matter what Jack wore for his photo? I thought it did. Really, this was important enough to me to pick out three outfits. But what I realized is that in 20 years when I am sitting in Jack's empty bedroom looking at his preschool picture I would rather smile at my little guy in his jersey with messed up hair than remember a fight over a darn school picture. That is my Jack at three and a half. He loves ball and trucks and wants to be a firefighter or garbage truck driver when he grows up. Sweet innocent boy. Oh how I love you.