Monday, February 22, 2016

Little Moments

Originally posted on Parent Co. 

Constantly in a rush. Always running from one chore to the next.

Continuously reminding myself to stop, put the phone down, stop thinking and just focus.

Really focus on what she’s asking. Listen with intent to what she is saying; watch her body movements and facial expressions.

What is she really saying? How is she really feeling?

My daughter, a spirited, strong-willed, intelligent and sassy toddler, consistently asks for my undivided attention. She craves it, especially during times when she senses that her parents are only partially paying attention.

“Mama, mama, mama,” she whines, pulling on my pant leg “I need attention.”

Sometimes her demand frustrates me. “Why can’t she understand I’m busy? How does she expect to eat if I can’t have 2 seconds to cut her meat? Please give me a moment” I want to say. And sometimes I do. My Motherhood isn’t perfect. The responses I dole out are not always well-thought out, but rather, reactive.1

Other times her request fills me with so much warmth and love for her that it’s easy to stop what I’m doing and focus solely on her, “of course we can play dress up; I’d love to draw with you and of course I want to see you do a cartwheel,” fall from my mouth without a second thought.

If only it was always that simple to stop everything and just connect with my daughter. This amazing child who evokes so many feelings, namely astonishment as in “did she really just come up with that all on her own?” to unabashed pride and love, requires constant attention.

As much as I try to meet her desire for undivided attention, I fail at times. Instead of paying attention just to her I have to improvise: playing Playmobil with one hand while spooning oatmeal to my 9-month-old with the other; pulling her close to me on the couch while watching TV as the infant nurses on my lap; reading on the bedroom floor using one hand to turn the page and gesture as I act out the characters, all while using the other arm to make Elmo dance in an attempt to keep the infant happy.

Our dinner table is a phone-free island where the four of us reside if only for half-an-hour without any distractions. We use that time to connect as a family. But it’s short-lived because after dinner comes diaper changing, cleanup, and playing catch up on whatever didn’t happen earlier that day. That time to connect is not enough for my daughter.

During these busy evenings, when the house is a blur of bath times and teeth brushing, prepping lunches for school and outfits for work, a diaper bag for drop off, I improvise. It’s those moments, while I’m in the kitchen cutting fruit or tossing a prepackaged salad into my own lunch bag that I catch up with my daughter. My chatterbox is animated and all too happy to share her thoughts on her day, standing in the middle of the kitchen as I move around her.

Upstairs in her room we discuss the weather and what she believes is the best thing to wear on a sunny/cool day and I present her with two clothing options.

It’s in between these busy moments; our daily routine, that I connect with my daughter.

“What did you learn at school today?” I ask as we pick out clothes

“What was your favorite part about today?” I ask as I cradle her head in my lap to floss her teeth

“Tell me about your new friend, Lucy,” I inquire as she brings me the lunchbox.

“Okay, mama,” she responds before telling me about her schoolmate.

“Mama, are you proud of me?” She asked one recent night as we sat in the playroom at her kid-sized table – me on the floor nursing the infant with my left arm, using the right hand to help her decorate a Sofia the First coloring book page with stickers.

“Of course I’m proud of you,” I tell her, looking straight into her hazel eyes. “You’re brave and smart, and so so funny. I’m so proud of you for being nice to other kids and the way you share your toys. I am so happy that you were patient with me today when your sister was crying. You’re so amazing.”

She continues to place stickers on the page, not looking up.

“I love you forever, even when we get mad at one another,” I press on. “I love you. Always.”

The moment passes as the baby stirs; once again my attention is diverted from one daughter to the next.

“I love you always, mama”, she says.

Those five words make my day.

It’s moments like this that help me realize the importance of all those little moments that we take to connect with one another  –  no matter how brief. They mean so much to her.

And they mean everything to me.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Balancing Act of Curiosity

This piece was originally featured on Parent Co. 

The nose is a mysterious cavern that must be explored every day. Sometimes hourly; sometimes every few seconds.

At least, that’s what my daughter believes.

This fascination with her nose has perplexed me on numerous occasions. Including a few months ago when she sneakily shoved a piece of corn first up one nostril, then the other. Curious, perhaps as to how it will feel or where it will go, my daughter went with her gut to conduct her experiment.

It wasn’t until she started crying and tugging at her nose that I realized something was up there. One kernel slipped out but the second one was wedged in her nostril.

“Why did you do that?” I asked her as my husband ran upstairs to get the tweezers.

“I don’t know,” she cried.

This wasn’t her first attempt at sticking something up there.

Last time it was a piece of macaroni and cheese. But she was only 1 1/2, still young and unknowing.

Why did I believe 3 is the age of maturity?

“Don’t do that again,” my husband told her after pulling out the kernel.

This daughter of mine, such a pusher of boundaries, lifted another kernel to her nose, all the while locking eyes with her dad.

“Put. It. Down,” he instructed.

She slipped the kernel into her mouth; my husband and I could barely hold in our laughter, only giving into the hilarity of the situation in the kitchen away from her watchful eyes, whispering what a little stinker our daughter can be.

I want my daughters to be curious.

I want them to try new things, to face their fears, to figure out their likes and dislikes, what they can do and what they shouldn’t do.

But their level of curiosity also brings on a certain level of frustration and fear. As their mother, their protector, I’m constantly weighing the negatives with the positives.

Should I let my toddler try to push the baby shopping cart by herself knowing she will most likely fall? What about the 3-year-old and her request to do things on her own? Do I let her try the scooter without me holding the handles?

It’s a balancing act.

Yes, she can fall off the scooter and scrape her knee, but she will learn to get up, try again. I really shouldn’t let the 1-year-old color in her sister’s coloring book, but she will quickly learn that when her sister says no, she means it.

“By myself,” my daughter commands, slightly pushing my hand off the handles of her tricycle.

I stand off to the side as her dad walks alongside her as she peddles around the cul-de-sac. On the driveway, I anxiously await their arrival when I’ll scan my daughter’s face.

Will she be crying? Will she be happy?

Either way, I’ll be here ready to cheer her on or wrap her up in a hug, kissing boo boos and applying band-aids.

I’ll always be here standing off at a distance, just in case.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

This is 33

I almost forgot today's my birthday.

Luckily I have people to remind me: