their eyes are watching you

Thursday, May 21, 2015

I've been hearing people say for a while now "Oh I was just reminded that my children are always watching me. I must be better, sit up straight, be more careful..." or essentially strive for perfection. Kindness, endless joy and happiness, calmness and collectedness and a boundless can-do attitude. There's nothing overtly wrong with this but it makes me wonder a little... Should what we allow our children to see in us really be so perfect?
While my parents were visiting us a few weeks ago my father asked "What are we going to do with Birdie when we have to leave for the airport? She's going to get so upset!!" And I told him that we were just going to let her be upset because I'm going to be sad too (in fact I would cry) and that this is normal and healthy and something she needs to start understanding. I am ok with allowing her to cry and I would be right next to her holding her hand and telling her that we will all be ok after a good cry. She may only be two but she's incredibly perceptive and trying to sort out the jumbled up mess of emotions that she is feeling on a daily basis. All of the professors in my Early Childhood Education classes were fervent believers in treating children not just with respect but with the understanding that their capacity for human emotion is bigger than we realize. And it was back in college that I decided that I would never talk down to my children.
I realize that sometimes I seem silly for sitting down to "talk" with a toddler that is thrashing and screaming like a banshee but I have found that she will eventually tune herself into my wavelength (and if that wavelength is frustration and anger she will tune into that too) and then we can then have a conversation about her behavior. And I've noticed, over time, that she has begun to appreciate the fact that I treat her the same way I would treat any adult. But the point is that she gets sad, angry, frustrated, offended, hurt, moody and basically the entire spectrum of human emotion. Sometimes she is incredibly sweet and kind and we reward her for that and sometimes she is mean and unkind and we are working on teaching her to process those emotions and also apologize when she has hurt or disappointed one of us. And here's the thing - how is she to learn the ins and outs of forgiveness if she never witnesses us having to ask for it ourselves? We do want our children to respect us but we don't want them to make gods out of us - omnipotent, all-knowing and beyond reproach.
Because the moment someone is convinced that in order to be "good" they must be perfect is the moment that they stop allowing themselves the luxury of introspection, growth and honesty. And after all we are all flawed, have made and continue to make mistakes and are in need of constant forgiveness. What will our children learn from us if all we show them is the "highlight reel" of our emotions? And wouldn't it be incredibly confusing to them if they never seen us lose our temper, patience or fall from grace when they do those things daily?
I've never believed in labeling emotions are good or bad, they are all simply "feelings." What we do with those emotions is infinitely more important than the fact that we feel them in the first place. So I feel that if our children are to navigate the complex web of human life and all that comes with it we must help them learn how to navigate their emotions first and foremost. And the best way to do this is by example of course! So yes, sometimes I lose my temper and I get angry... and then I go and apologize and say something like "mummy got angry because you were naughty and shouted but she is sorry and loves you very, very much." Or sometimes I get sad and I tell her that "mummy needs some quiet time to be sad." I've let her see me cry, be angry, happy, frustrated, tired and don't worry she's seen me laugh too. And by the same token she has expressed all those same emotions too. And together we are learning that if we yell when we're angry we need to apologize (same applies to throwing things when we're sad, her not me, lol) and when we're frustrated it's best to say "I don't like that I can't buckle my shoes by myself, will you help me?" instead of kicking and screaming. And I hope that when she's older we will learn together what it means to make mistakes, to seek forgiveness and be granted it.
We want our children to know that life is a journey, one that will be full of wonderful experiences, victories, mistakes, losses, achievements and failures. The absence of any or one of these does not make someone better, it would simply render any of us non-human. What we do with all of this is what is of actual importance. I too believe that we should never let our mistakes define us, however I think it's silly to think that they won't change us. Hopefully the changes are always for the better, always to draw out a more authentic, open, genuine and honest version of ourselves. I want our children to know that it's ok to shine a light on the darker parts of ourselves in order to try and change them because it's when we shroud those qualities in darkness and secrecy that they grow to be strongest. The unconscious thrives on anonymity and denial, gaining power over us until we have no idea why we do the things we do. It's a treasure trove of guilt, sadness, disappointment, fear and resentment. And I believe that it all starts when we are very young - the first time we feel that we aren't good enough and we lock it away and a drop falls in the bucket...
So yes, our children are watching us closely but I hope that what they see when they look at me is a real person with real feelings, flaws and someone who is constantly evolving, never afraid of saying "I'm sorry." I hope my children always know that in our house "we" are not bad or good but we "do" things that are bad or good. And more than anything I hope that my children know that the well of forgiveness will never run dry because lord knows children are already the most forgiving people on earth and I can only hope to live my life with that much abundant grace.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

birdie: dancing and always asking for a song
teddy: he's "playing" more and it's done wonders for his relationship with Birdie as she finds him infinitely more interesting now. Makes my mama heart melt.

thoughts vol. II

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

THINKING ABOUT: Last thursday night I breastfed my sweet baby boy for the last time. He's mostly eating solids now and taking a bottle a handful of times a day and taking into the consideration his issues with dairy and my other health issues I decided it was time. I nestled into the bed in the guest bedroom where he is currently sleeping and put him to the breast. I rubbed his head and kissed his cheek and tried so very hard to remember this moment. To remember the way he gulps and sort of hums while he eats. To remember the way he always has to be grasping something - my bra strap, the collar of my shirt or my favorite - my finger. To remember the way his body gets both heavier and limper the deeper he falls asleep. To remember the way we have made such a good team for almost eight months. To remember... it all. I felt knot in my throat form and the weight of the moment as it shocked and overwhelmed me. And all of sudden I could see it all again... I could feel my heart beating out of my chest, the bright lights and then... that cry. That unmistakable wail that could only belong to my darling boy and no one else. I could see us later too, him latching on for the first time and letting me know that "we've got this." And I cried. I cried so hard for this miracle baby that floored us with his coming and I cried for his gentle spirit that has always uplifted me even in the hardest months and I cried for all this love, for the way he united and bonded the four of us even more than we were before. It was hard and special and perfect and I pray to God I won't ever forget it.

FEELING: Quite a bit of pain. With Birdie my supply dried up long before she was done nursing so this is something new for me. I've sought the advice of the google gods and mommy forums and I've armed myself with a hefty head of cabbage. Yes, cabbage. Somehow it works?!! I will say daytime is bearable but nighttime has been tough, especially since I'm a stomach sleeper. I'm praying this is over soon and I get some relief. This weaning business is just the pits, you have to suffer physically and emotionally and then there's the whole cabbage thing on top of it. Yikes.

THANKFUL FOR: When I took a break from social media last week it wasn't just about "not looking," I physically deleted all the apps from my phone. By the second day I stopped carrying my phone around the house with me all day and would just leave it in our bedroom all day. It brought me back to the days of yore when if you had a moment of alone time or silence or were "waiting" whether it be in line at the grocery store or at the doctors office you just. sat. there. Alone with your thoughts. Honestly, sometimes I felt like I was getting to know myself all over again. Instead of constantly filling my time with what "everyone else is doing" I thought about what I want to do. That felt... dare I say refreshing?? I also found myself being thankful for the little things that I often don't notice - the warmth of Teddy's body first thing in the morning, the way the glass in the a picture frame reflects the trees in our backyard, the late afternoon light in the nursery or the sound of the woodpecker early in the morning.

EATING: So, not to keep riding this weaning train but!! I will admit I was pretty excited to be able to add dairy back into my diet again after eight months! So, on friday I had pizza and frozen yogurt and on saturday I had ice cream and by saturday night I had... a lot of pain. And bloating. And just generally feeling miserable. It was bad. And you know what?! It wasn't worth it. I thought all these things would taste sooooo good after being deprived for so long but my reaction was sort of meh. I don't know that this will be a lifelong thing but I think at least for right now I'm going to hop back on the dairy-free bandwagon.

LISTENING TO: Papa bear and I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of My Morning Jacket's new album The Waterfall and now that it's out we can't stop listening to it. It's a slightly different sound then what we're used to but I love when a band can surprise me like that. I also love that it arrived just in time for the summer to. One of my favorite memories is when we went to one of their concerts the summer before we got pregnant with Birdie. It was a hot and muggy day in late August when we saw them in Virginia. We camped out on a lawn with cold drinks and corn on the cob and were so free. I remember being a little disappointed when it was over that they didn't play our favorite song but then Jim James came out for the encore and played it after all! It was the perfect ending to a perfect day, one I'll never forget.

WATCHING: I'm obsessed with the music video to Joy Williams' song "Woman." I was already in love with the song and playing it on repeat and the video was everything I wanted it to be and more. I cannot wait for the full album!

READING: I was in need of some comedic relief last week so I started Jim Gaffigan's book Food: A Love Story. So, so good. I kept driving Kevin crazy because I would bust out laughing while reading it to myself in bed. Of course then I just had to read it to him and basically I just ended up reading the whole thing out loud. The bit about oysters had me crying. I finally worked up the courage to try an oyster two years ago and I couldn't agree more with his assessment of the taste being akin to pneumonia. Yuck!!

LOVING: Being a mama to a two and a half year old little girl. Birdie is growing up into the most wonderful, fun, sweet and funny girl and I feel so lucky to get to witness it. I could have never imagined that it would be this good. You can pretty much have entire conversations with her now and she gets in these funny moods sometimes when she'll talk in a funny voice and she's just a joy to be around. I love observing how creative she is - seeing her draw, hearing her silly songs she sings to herself and watching her read book after book to herself. She even has "favwite" books now!! Childhood man... it's so, so good.


Monday, May 18, 2015

birdie: she is the most earnest little gardner ever. Not the most efficient but gosh does she try!!
teddy: those are in fact two teeth that you are seeing!! We paid for them dearly with our sleep last week.