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Parenting: Contents Under Pressure

21 May

“I am so happy when I just think about kid stuff!” The comment seem to dance around the living room by a little girl struggling lately with a range of different thoughts and emotions making her feel confused and worried.

WarningIt’s been an interesting (read challenging and stressful) few days for us. I couldn’t agree more with her exclamation. However, I sadly understand and pointed out to her that the other (less fun) stuff is indeed still “kid” stuff as well. Just growing up kid stuff.

From what I remember about puberty, it was different from all this business I’m hearing about from our oldest baby. Maybe because I blocked out the awkward? Maybe because I don’t remember such specific thoughts? Maybe because I wasn’t a parent on the other side?

I know one thing for sure – I certainly did not tell my parents everything Nia tells us. I’m sure I will miss her openness when she stops sharing her thoughts with me. I just think it would be better for all of us if she didn’t share quite so much. Some thoughts should stay private. I don’t even want people to know everything I think. I could be in big trouble if I told someone my thoughts when I thought them. I told her that so she knows she’s not the only one who thinks things she doesn’t want to or understand. I told her the thoughts are normal. It’s ok to have them. It’s the choosing not to act on them that matters. I stress to her that she’s a kind, caring little girl. She worries she has a “bad” part. Don’t we all?

It’s just tough to teach a child who wants so much to do the right thing that she doesn’t need to tattle on herself for every little hiccup of growing up. We’ve talked about it and talked about it (and talked about it some more) and I’m hoping we can find a way for her to best manage her feelings without feeling like she needs to confess or seek reassurance for all things. It’s a tricky thing to balance because I tell her I’m always here to talk about her concerns but then I say – we just don’t need to talk about all things. I’ve tried to tell her she’ll soon be able to distinguish between the harmless (although maybe a bit uneasy) thoughts that she’s a-ok to keep private and the thoughts/experiences she feels that could hurt her or others. Those are shareable.

Because I don’t want to mess this whole parenting thing up, I’m planning to get guidance on how I can best handle my responses and direct her feelings the safest way. I guess that’s what Nia does when she shares with me. From one confessing, worried soul to another, this situation is fragile.

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Then Came Ten

27 Apr

Where did nine go? It was just here a sleep or two ago. The year was so fun, busy and marked with many changes for our (not-so) Baby Bean.

November 2012

November 2012

You sprouted like crazy. At the end of your Third Grade year, you were frustrated how the older kids would say you looked like you were a Kindergartener. Now, you may likely challenge some of those kids on inches. You are catching up to mine, now almost up to my shoulder. I had you sit on my lap the other day and almost cried. You will always “fit” there (love-wise) but it was then that I realized, you don’t fit there (size-wise) anymore.

Bean Sprout

Bean Sprout – April 2013

A braver Bean also started forming this year. “I’m auditioning to be Elfis in the class musical “Elfis,” you informed me. Out of your shy shell, you put on the costume, rocked the Wii guitar and sang in the microphone in front of three audiences of all ages. You memorized your lines and delivered them in character, getting giggles from the crowd. It was wonderful watching you on the stage and not even flinch when a child yelled out, “That’s a girl! My dad told me!” You even made one boy slap his own face when he discovered you were a girl hiding under that Elvis wig. What a moment.

In Character - December 2012

In Character – December 2012

The year of Nine had you caring about how you did in Gym Class for the first time ever. Each year, they offer medals for how many Phys.Ed. challenges students pass. They are handed out at the end of the year awards ceremony, along with the academic achievements. You always get “gold” for great grades and behavior but you’ve never earned a medal for athletics. You worked hard at this. You came home and practiced volleyball. You practiced stretching for several nights so you could improve your reach test. You succeeded. This athletic spirit also started showing when you ran in Mile Fun Run races. You pushed yourself and earned a place medal. Get it, girl!

Brother First | Sister Second

Brother First | Sister Second

Nine will also be known as the year when you began being ok with saying goodbye to your Barbies and dollhouses. I thought this would be a more gradual process but you made up your mind and started piling the dolls in a box. You gave eighty dolls to bring love to another child. It made room for a zebra-striped reading bean bag and a desk that will take you through high school or longer. You also want to paint over the princess crowns and castle lining your wall with a big purple stripe. However, while you are working your way to “older” things, you still find room in your heart for a few things from your “younger” years.

Annie and Nia

Annie and Nia – January 2013

Your interests also started expanding this past year. Your daddy introduced you and Nate to Star Wars and you couldn’t love it more. You watched all the movies and then watched all the movies again within a few weeks. You know more about the characters and events of the movies than I do and I’ve watched the movies more. The love of the movies has made you love all things Star Wars. Your Angry Birds Star Wars drawing is a great example of that.

Angry Birds Star Wars by Nia

Angry Birds Star Wars by Nia

You are such a considerate and caring person and it really showed this year. You have a helping heart and I’m amazed how you can easily play with children of all ages. Your patience and selflessness with younger children is beautiful. You also genuinely worry about others. You have a compassionate sense of right and wrong and try to protect people from being hurt. That includes yourself. When another student tried to hurt your feelings by calling out your “unibrow,” you calmly replied to her with, “I know I have one. So?” I know this is tough for you because you are a sensitive soul. I am so proud of you and often think of you to remind me how to react to things as well.

Protecting

Protector Bean

Helping Bean

Helping Bean

This year also meant taking boys more seriously. Well really, “boy” more seriously. You’ve had the same “boyfriend” since Second Grade but you never really blushed when you talked about him until this year. Now, things he says to you or gifts he gives you are very special. You keep them close and let us know about things that happened that day around him. All of this is comfortable for us because you are both sweet kids and you tell us EVERYTHING. Seriously, everything. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining because I’m glad you share things with us. I know there will be a time when you will stop sharing. Thank  you for letting us into your world and trusting us with your heart.

Gift from a Special Someone

Gift from a Special Someone

Your heart also has so much room in it for your little brother. You love him dearly – even when you are nah-nahing each other. He looks up to you too and is proud of you. When you told us about your possible gold medal in P.E., Nate was the first to praise, “Great job, Nia!” I hope you two will continue to be each other’s biggest fans. I can’t explain how happy it makes me to see you showing unconditional love for each other.

Little Brother | Big Sister

Little Brother | Big Sister

It’s difficult to capture the beauty of your heart, Bean, but I hope when you read this it gives you a glimpse of the amazing young lady you are. You are a treasure to everyone who knows you because of your attitude, kindness and hope to bring happiness to others. One example of that is how you love to make up jokes to make us laugh. “Why is my coat on the floor? It’s tired because I wore it out.”

Silly sweetheart, I love you so much. Happy birthday, 10-year-old.

Emotionally Yours

23 Apr

They said the same thing three weeks ago. I didn’t think twice about it. I even likely laughed with them. Ha, good one. Not offended at all. Didn’t read into it. Took it for exactly what it was. Maybe it was a one sentence email. Maybe it was an all-in-good-fun comment made in the kitchen. No issues.

Then, three weeks pass. So, what are you trying to say? You don’t think I do a good job. He’s criticizing me. I can’t do anything right. Ohnoyou’renotgonna use that email tone with me, lady.

I now know to stop and readjust my mindset before letting those emotional thoughts flood my sanity. That took me some time to realize and I still struggle with it. Especially if other factors are hitting that week – lack of sleep, major event planning, kid struggles …

What is proving really tough for me now though is that we’re starting to see glimpses of this in Nia. Emotional changes she/we can’t link to anything. She was fine when I said those same three words to her before – now, I’m the meanest person in the world and she can’t stop crying.

I know it’s part of life and we get through it but it hurts that I can’t rationalize it away for her. I see myself so much in her. We are such sensitive souls and then the emotional swings intensify our moods. I know she will need to sort through these powerful emotions and learn how to best deal with them without becoming a crazy. It’s just so difficult for me to not be able to help her understand. Why did that make you so upset? Whoa, Bean, what happened? Where are all these tears coming from? My words of comfort and support aren’t enough to calm her. Sometimes, she just needs to get it all out. I get it.

In a way, it feels like we just go through the stages of growing up over and over again. The toddler years featured many unexplainable and inconsolable fits. Then, after a nap, snack or time out, it was all better. I wish it’ll be that easy. (Although it certainly wasn’t easy at the time going through the toddler stage.) I just know this will be a much longer phase and I plan to do all I can to handle with care – and not let my emotions get away with me too.

Bean                                     |                                               Mom

Caution: Bridge May Ice in Winter

21 Apr

So many life lessons exist for the kids within the miles and hours spent in a cocoon on wheels with other people.

  • We need fuel to run. This can be taught by the amount of gas fill-ups needed or snack food fixes you’ll require. Even though we know they aren’t good for us, we will most often invite things we don’t eat on any other normal day – chips, beef jerky, Combos, giant pickles in bags and Swedish Fish – to be an additional travel companions.
  • Sleep happens.
  • Interstate billboards offer you plenty of knowledge nuggets about religion, sex, eating habits and laws we should follow to make society better and safer.

21 is the legal drinking age.

Litter is bad.

Speed limit is slower than you’re driving.

Seat belts even keep a picture of the state of Georgia safe.

  • Stretching is important.
  • Too much time trapped with the same people causes fits of laughter, whining, tested nerves and lunacy. Such are the emotions many of us go through on a given day.
  • The road trip games we play can offer quite a few lessons. For example, we enjoy the alphabet game. We play ours by finding words on signs, billboards and cars that go in alphabetical order. You can’t say the same word as another person unless it’s for Q, X and Z. (The toughest to find.) First person to find the Z word, wins. This most recent road trip showed me how this game wad teaching the kids:
    • Patience – sometimes you need to wait for 20 minutes and few signs before finding your word.
    • Things don’t always come easy – daddy was driving too fast by signs, some signs were blocked by other vehicles, one person would say a word faster, etc.
    • Make the best of a situation – when you are the only one still looking for a G word, sing a silly song about the letter G and how it is hiding from you. (Nia had a lot of original tunes.)
  • Be ready for the speed bumps. Traffic, accidents, car issues, items accidentally left on the roof, wrong or misread directions, a threatening wasp unexpectedly trapped in the small space with you, a spilled drink, and/or extra pit stops will attempt to throw you off course and shatter your spirit. How you handle these situations is a glimpse at how you’d handle problems at school, work or relationships. Proceed with caution.

Orion’s Belt

20 Apr

I looked up at the stars the other night. It’s such a rare thing for me anymore that I had to think about the last time I stopped to take in the view. This time, I was running through my neighborhood on a clear evening. Instead of looking down at the ground so I don’t trip or step in a dog’s gift to the sidewalk or keeping my eyes forward so I keep moving in that same direction, my attention shifted toward the sky. Spotting the Big Dipper was as easy as it ever was. Like riding a bike.

I remember how much I used to love star gazing. Sitting on the front porch of my childhood home with a glass of my mom’s iced tea keeping me company. I felt so free being old enough to sit out at night by myself. (Sure, many nights I was hoping some boy I liked would drive by my house. On a rare occasion, that would actually happen.) For the most part though, I sat there and let the stars hypnotize me as I thought out love stories in my mind.

Starry nights used to have such an “An American Tail” feel for me as well. The sky was the one thing that I felt connected Andrew to me when we were oceans apart. I know it sounds cheesy, but I couldn’t help but think of the song “Somewhere Out There” when I was in Georgia and he was in Kosovo and Kuwait/Iraq. Although, I know he wouldn’t wish on the same star because he’s not into all that hogwash.

I’m not sure when I started taking the stars for granted. If it wasn’t for that recent run and Nia’s new knowledge and fascination with the solar system, my eyes would still be shooting straight ahead. Recently, she pointed at the sky and said, “There’s Orion’s Belt.” Something I never knew. I can’t wait for her to teach me more.

Solar System by Nia

Solar System by Nia

Priceless Sharpie® Stains

3 Mar

I’m sure I should care more when things in our house get marked up or stained. It’s not that I don’t respect property or our things, it’s just I’ve prepared myself that accidents happen. We even bought furniture knowing it was going to be “loved” by our family.

Besides, how can I be upset about these Sharpie® marks:

Sharpie Stain

Sharpie® Stain

When they were only left because Nate was drawing and coloring these precious portraits:

Andrew by Nate (age 7)

Sharpie® Andrew
Drawn by Nate (age 7)

Sharpie Nicole by Nate (age 7)

Sharpie® Nicole
Drawn by Nate (age 7)

Sharpie Nia by Nate (age 7)

Sharpie® Nia
Drawn by Nate (age 7)

Sharpie Self-Portrait

Sharpie® Self-Portrait

Laugh Track Humor

24 Feb

funny“Why do they keep laughing at everything she says?”

It’s a valid question, Nate. Especially since 75% of what comes out of her scripted sitcom mouth is not funny. (Or is it?)

“It’s called a laugh track, buddy. Basically, the people who make the tv show have a sound that makes it seem like an audience is laughing. They use it so we know something was meant to be funny.” Even when it’s not.

That got me thinking about the whole chicken versus egg thing and questions started ping-ponging around in my brain.

How much do we learn about humor from the laugh track cues on sitcoms? (Are many of us are trained to laugh at things because of what we absorbed watching tv punchlines that producers led us to believe are hysterical because of an audience reaction?)

Why do you want to teach my children to laugh at the sassy little girl on your program? Do you know how hard I’m working to teach them not to sass? Sure, I know we don’t have to watch your show but I actually do find that sassy little girl comical – probably because of the early laugh track humor invasion established in my brain at an early age. Instead, I’ll just watch the show with them and when her line hits I’ll smirk in my head and then reinforce to the kids, “We shouldn’t talk to people that way.” I’m so conflicted and hypocritical over here.

How much of our humor comes naturally? Some are just born with a fabulous sense of humor? Maybe we learn it from the adults we had around us as we grew up? Funny friends? But where did they learn that someone tripping over a chair and into a pile of garbage is funny? Banana peel on a head and then a quirky line to cut to commercial? Bwa-ha-ha! (I only laugh at these scenes on special days.) What makes me laugh so hard at the zany things Amy Duncan does on Good Luck Charlie? I laugh at her daily and only feel a little ashamed about it. And why the heck do I think the drunk driving scene in 40-Year-Old Virgin is funny? It’s so wrong. So wrong. But it makes my laugh go silent and tears fill in my eyes because it strikes me as hilarious. Surely I can’t connect that demented sense of humor to laugh tracks?

Are emoticons the electronic equivalent to a televised laugh track, helping readers know when they are supposed to smile? How will we know when to chuckle or that someone is just kidding unless they give us a 🙂 or a ;)?

Of course, I am ridiculous and these are all just the inner-workings of my mind as I was doing the dishes one night. It does make me laugh when I think about it all though. Which makes me wonder …

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