Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hidden Moments

I read a quote today by Charles R. Swindoll: "Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children". How sweet; its such a nice reflection on how we as parents impact our children's lives daily. However, as I was thinking about my day today, I realized that the tirade I went on this morning when we were late leaving for the bus stop is not a memory I want my children depositing in their long term savings account. The nagging at the table last night to finish their dinner in under an hour isn't either. But how do you balance out those necessary parenting moments, that get your children to school on time and keep them nourished, while providing those good memory moments too?

Recently I've felt like I spend all of my energy just getting my boys to do the basic requirements of life and it involves a lot of instruction, reminding, nagging, and finally yelling. My best friend, who also has two boys ages 7 and 4, has told me that she is "really just trying to keep them alive right now". She counts her day as a success if they all got where they needed to be dressed and fed and arrived there and home again safely. That is not to say there are no good moments ever; my friend and I both share the same bedtime routine with our children of reading books and snuggling, but is that enough? Are those brief moments each day of calm happiness enough to fill up our children's memory bank?

I attended a talk by Dr. Stephen Treat, CEO of the Council for Relationships, a few weeks back and his "take-home" message was to make time to "peerage" with your children. His emphasis was to not spend every moment of the day parenting your children; there should be some amount of time each day where you are interacting with them, talking with them, or playing with them on their level as a peer. There should be time that you spend with your children where you're not reminding them of the things they haven't done or aren't doing correctly. When I think about the time I spend with my kids, I realize how much time I do spend parenting and when I'm not parenting I'm just background noise cleaning up or prepping for the next activity. Sure, its necessary, but its not much fun for either one of us. But creating a "peerage" situation seems like it takes planning and forethought and I'm not sure how much energy I have left for that. I tried to plan a special evening last night of an early dinner and PJs for the three of us followed by snuggling in front of a Charlie Brown Halloween special. But before we had even finished dinner, there was yelling and whining because my kids weren't following the plan and we were running out of time before bed.

I've had the "peerage" advice in my head for a few weeks and have been trying to pay more attention to the quality of time I spend with my kids. But reading that Swindoll quote about memories really put it into perspective for me. What do I want my children to remember from their childhood? They'll probably remember the Charlie Brown special, but they won't remember watching it with me because I was cleaning up the mess they left at the dinner table. Are they going to remember that I got them to school on time everyday, or is there a better memory of us belting out an 80's rock tune in the car together while we were waiting for the bus? I think its those hidden moments - those unplanned opportunities that make the best memories. I'm guessing the quantity of time doesn't matter as much as the quality of time for peerage. So, those silly conversations we have in car line and our impromptu kitchen dance parties when a good song comes on Pandora should be worth something. I just need to remember to look for those hidden moments each day.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Mother's Love

I watched a kid pull a long wet booger out of her nose this morning and proceed to stick it in her mouth and eat it. I honestly felt sick. Recounting this right now is making me a little queasy. But, I'm guessing that if my kid was the one who did this, I would probably laugh a little; maybe scold him for poor manners, but I doubt I would feel the wave of nausea I felt this morning. What is it about motherhood that makes us love our own kids no matter what?

I think I may have mentioned before that I'm not a crazy kid person. However, I really like my own gross kids. They're boys: they're dirty, sweaty, and they often don't smell that great, but I love them. Last week in Target I noticed a horrible smell filling the whole aisle we were in. When looking around to try to find the source, my eyes met my 3 year old's. He smiled and said in his little voice, "Excuse me." I had to smile; at least he is polite. But I doubt another parent would have thought he was so cute at that moment. And I know if he wasn't my own kid, I would want to get far away from him.

But that's the thing about a mother's love. I still see my kids through the same loving eyes no matter if they just stepped out of the bathtub smelling like soap or off of the soccer field smelling like sweaty feet. I guess that's unconditional love? It must be a little trick human nature plays on us to make sure that we're always there for our kids; to see them through childhood until they can fend for themselves. It enables us to deal with the diaper changes and the potty training; to not want to run when our kids our yelling from the bathroom that they need their butt wiped. And it ensures we soldier on through the puke and snot to care for our kids when they are sick, doing what ever it takes to comfort them until they are better. Its easy to love them when they are cute, clean, and well behaved. But we can't just love them part of the time; they need us all of the time.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

My 6 year old came up behind me the other day and threw something at me. I turned around to see a quarter fall to the floor. When I asked him why he just threw change at me, he answered with a little giggle, "Dad says you can bounce a quarter off your butt and I wanted to see if its true". Really? "Well?", I asked him. He answered honestly, "It didn't really bounce like I thought it would."

But that's the hard truth, or not so hard, as it may be. My husband makes that quarter bouncing comment quite frequently as a joke when he thinks I've been logging more miles running than he has. But, despite all the exercise I try to squeeze into my already crazy schedule, I am just a mom. And I've learned to accept, "You look really good - for a mom", as a compliment. In fact I embrace those sentiments now because if the stories I heard when I was pregnant were true, I'd be overweight and much more out of shape now. I had very bitter women tell me (while pregnant nonetheless, as if I didn't already feel fat enough), "You never lose all the weight", "Your hips will always be a little bigger", and "Your feet will grow at least a shoe size". If it wasn't for my best friend, who lived 3,000 miles away, telling me "work at it and you can lose the weight"; if I didn't have her own little post-baby body to hold as a reference, I might have just surrendered to a life of frumpy mom jeans. But I did work at it; I did work-out and I literally ran my ass right off. Three months after both my sons were born, I was back in my skinny jeans and all of my shoes. The truth is, you can go back to being the same size or even smaller than you were before kids and you can do it multiple times; it is possible. But there are other truths and they are bad; some even ugly.

Despite losing all of the baby weight and then some, no amount of exercise is going to undo what my two kids have done to me. I let them each live in my body until their exact due date and although I am grateful that they didn't trash the place; they didn't leave it as they found it when they moved out. Thankfully, I don't have stretch marks, but my skin and muscles will forever feel the lasting impression of being "stretched". No amount of crunches will ever get my stomach back to exactly how I remember it. And I miss my old belly button; I never contemplated how the belly button would be collateral damage with the "stretching" too. I am forever reminded that I was once 50 pounds larger when I lift something heavy and that familiar sciatic pain shoots down my leg. And when I push myself too hard on a long run, those ligaments, that I didn't even know I had until they were stretched beyond repair, flair up and I'm crippled for days. And yes, I did run my ass off; its gone along with any other curves I once had. Nursing two kids for 9 months each didn't help that cause either. Exercise can only repair so much - there is a reason plastic surgery exists.

So quarters don't bounce off of me. Maybe I should have gone for a run this morning instead of running errands; and maybe I shouldn't have passed off a Pop-tart as lunch because I ran out of time. But I am a mom after all and I embrace that. I'm not holding my new body against my children. It may have a few tell-tale signs of motherhood, but I'm actually a smaller size and in better shape than I was before kids. Am I a candidate for Dr. 90210 Rey's "Mommy Makeover"? Absolutely. And I'm not opposed to fixing what exercise can't, but I'm also a chicken when it comes to pain. I somehow managed to have two kids enter this world pain free. Unless I can be guaranteed to be allowed to go home with an epidural still intact, I won't be making any trips to Beverly Hills any time soon.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Spilled Milk

You've heard the saying "Don't cry over spilled milk". Well, I don't agree. Sure this saying has a nice hidden meaning - don't regret what can't be undone. But to anyone with kids this idiom is much more literal. For me, milk being spilled is part of our daily routine and although I can't put the spilled milk back into the glass, I can regret that it continues to happen time and time again.

My 5 year old may have the record for spilled milk. At one point he was averaging one glass a meal, 3 meals a day, every day. It has lessened, but I don't exactly know how this still continues to happen. Some days it is obvious when he is sitting at the table playing with his food, his plate, his silverware and his glass, that something is going to spill. Other days I see it coming when I ask him over and over again to please stop pretending to play baseball at the table. But my 5 year old never heeds my warnings and always tries to fit one more "up to bat". Inevitably when his little brother pitches the imaginary baseball across the table to him, he spills his milk when he swings. There are times too where the milk just seems to spill without warning, almost without actual cause. There's a flick of the wrist or a bump of the elbow that is almost too fast for the naked eye to see. What I don't understand is how he never learns from the time before. Why can't he be more careful? Why is milk still spilling in our house?

I remember clearly the first time he spilled milk at the table. He had just graduated to a real cup from a sippy cup. I didn't see what caused the spill; I turned my back for a second in the kitchen and the next thing I heard was him crying and the splashing sound of milk running off the table onto the floor. I remember staying calm, hearing that old adage in my head, and not wanting him to cry. Thinking I was being a "good mom", I stayed calm and I assured him it was okay; wiping his tears away. I cleaned up the table and the floor with a smile, and got him another glass of milk. But I have since become a little too familiar with that sound of milk rolling off the table onto the floor. Maybe I let him off too easy? I know that a glass of spilled milk is really not a big deal. But when I find myself under the kitchen table repeatedly cleaning up puddles of milk, I have other thoughts.

I now think crying over spilled milk is very much warranted. In fact its expected, especially if I am the one cleaning up the mess. My kids know that we've well exceeded the number of times milk should spill in one household. They don't laugh when it happens; they just sit there quietly watching as I quickly race around the kitchen trying to soak up the table before it all falls to the floor. But on the days where there are multiple spills, sometimes tears are shed. Sometimes I remind them that I'm the one who should actually be crying, because I'm the one cleaning it all up. And sometimes I join them. When you are on your hands and knees under the table cleaning the floor for the second time that day and have milk fall on your head through the table leaf; then it is absolutely warranted to cry a little over spilled milk.