Everything

Kids give it their all.  Everything.  Whatever they are doing at the moment, it gets their full attention, all their focus.  If they are building a tower with blocks, that is all they are doing.  If they are collecting pinecones outside, those pinecones are their single focus- until they discover a flower or a bug and then their entire world hones in on this new object.   When they come running into your arms, they run full out, throwing their entire bodies at you without hesitation.  And when they are tired and you pick them up, they give their entire selves over to you, trusting their entire weight into your arms as they rest their head on your shoulder.  They give you their all.

We, as parents, have to work to give our children our all.  This isn’t always easy, it doesn’t always come naturally and sometimes it can feel downright onerous.  Some days its a breeze to sit on the floor and play with legos and cars and stuffed animals for hours on end, switching games right along with our little ones, laughing at the stories they tell and answering their endless questions patiently.  But other days, the hours stretch too long.  The games they play become …well boring and tedious to us.  It isn’t that we don’t want to give our all to our children every possible moment.  But as adults, we are molded to multi-task.  As a stay at home mother, one who doesn’t rely on day care or a nanny to help our during the day, I have a responsibility to not only give my all to my son but to my family and our household as well and I rarely get to take a break from this job.  I feel the weight of this responsibility keenly, everyday. While I want to be able to give my entire focus to my son all day long, with total patience and enthusiasm, I also have a household to keep up, projects of my own that I wish to get done, a constantly growing to-do list and the internal worries and nagging thoughts that play through my mind every day.

Older generations are always saying not to worry so much about the housework, that these years will pass by too quickly and we will regret not spending more time digging in the dirt, having tea parties, and playing reckless games of chase to the backdrop of children’s laughter.  I know this is true because I already feel time slipping away before I am altogether ready to let go.  But I also know that I am happier in a clean house, more patient with my child when I am also able to get through my to-do list throughout the week.  The days seem to pass easier when I am able to keep us both busy.  It is a constant balancing act.

But every day I remind myself to give Casey my all.  I work to slow down and be patient, to answer all of his questions as best I can and give him my full attention when he is trying to tell me something.  I try not to get frustrated when he wants to stop every few feet on a walk down the street.  Instead, I take a deep breath and sit down next to him and study ants, poke rolly pollies so they curl up into balls, hold the rocks and leaves and flowers that he collects along the way.  In other words, I simply try to be where he’s at.

Just be wherever your children are.  That is everything.

Advertisements

Play Time

Play doh slid through the small holes of the spice jar’s top.

“Pasta,” but….. not to eat!
image

We had, only minutes earlier, destroyed the LEGO “house” we made for our cars.
image

Maybe later we’d get bundled up and brave the wind but for now we’re content to lay on our bellies and roll play doh between our palms.

“Small. Medium. Large.” I make clay balls of different sizes and point out each one.

“Medium.” Casey parrots our every word.

“Dada.  Pasta,” he says and lays his head down on his arms, just waiting to show his father this incredible treasure.

Powder

wpid-wp-1444414392583.jpegWe made handprints in the powder.  Dust swirled upward with the slap of our palms.

I couldn’t say no.  He, ingeniously, tried to turn the bottle over and pour baby powder into his shovel. The questioning  look when it didn’t come out sealed the deal for him. I complied when he handed it to me to open and I wasn’t even worried when the fine white dust spread beyond the confines of the box top I tried to contain it in.

As we vacuumed later, I reached out to wipe the smudges off his cheeks.

“Casey” he cries. Mr. Independent.

 

Within the Tension

It arises like a spark inside- that feeling that change is coming. The feeling of fall.
For a while the days flew by. I’d blink and the day would be over- where did the time go? Maybe it was the heat. Instead of making for long, languid days, it forced us to plan activities and errands in order to stay indoors where the air was cool. We did endless loads of laundry as our clothes became mired in sweat and dust and dirt.

Now, the change of season is upon us. Sunny, crisp mornings call for long walks up and down our street, taking our time, collecting acorns and berries and seed pods. I love this time of year when a hint of fall is in the air. Stepping out of the shadows into the sun, a delicious sense of warmth seems to arise forcing the chill out to the very edges of my skin, the hairs on my arms lifting in a delightful shiver.

We walk down our street and Casey repeats his ABC’s after me, experimenting with the sounds as they roll around his mouth and tumble and pop off his lips. He stops to lay in the grass and looks up at the sky.

“Bwoo,” he says as he points upward.
“Yes,” I say. “The sky is Blue!”
“Gwass,” he says, rolling over and pointing at the grass.
“Yes, grass! What color is the grass?”
“Geen!!” He beams with pleasure at knowing this simple fact.

It’s leaps and bounds. Every day he seems to know something new, say something new. I am in constant awe of him, in awe of how wonderful this life we are given can be. I love the marvelous sensation of rediscovering such simple joy in all the common, daily things I previously overlooked or took for granted. Playing with Casey, walking around with him as he explores the world outside is like having a memory that I can’t quite fully access. The players are blurry. I can’t quite remember where the plot takes me but my body tingles as it recalls the sensation of magic and curiosity, of being excited for whatever was next and not being afraid. It’s healing to find my way back to that place.

I couldn’t have predicted that motherhood would suit me so well, yet I am more at peace within myself then I have ever been- more accepting, more forgiving, more joyous in simply being. It isn’t always easy pickings but when the going gets rough, I’m trying to find better, more effective ways to communicate what I need, both with others and with myself. I find it’s a journey of yin and yang, of push and pull, of stop and go. I don’t think there is a mastery in motherhood because it is always changing, the relationship with your child or children always evolving. But there is a sense of mastery in being able to live within the tension of motherhood, manage the ebb and flow and inevitable frustration of constantly being on a learning curve. (Isn’t that really all of life?) It’s easy to admit when we feel on top of things, harder to talk about when we feel as if we are falling behind, and, underlying it all, a constant fear of what will happen when we are not able to protect and keep ourselves or our children any longer.

And so I allow myself to be embraced within the light of childhood as much as I can. I consciously force myself to slow down and take in the moment, allowing Casey to embrace and explore his own moments, take his time with each new discovery. I try. Sometimes, I get anxious and bored and angry and scared but I just keep on trying; take a deep breath and accept the tension of motherhood. I let the rough days roll on by; slog through the laundry and the dishes, the tantrums, the mess. I embrace the good days allowing the light of childhood to envelope me within its magic. In between, I turn to my mat, my breath, my art, my pen and most if all my family to help keep me grounded and whole, while i find the balance necessary to exist within the tension.
image

image

image

image

image

image
image

A thousand kisses and a thousand more.

I was recently told that I’ve raised Casey to be independent just like my mother raised me. I took this as a great compliment. I want to raise a child who is independent, who has confidence in themselves and their abilities. So I walk the line between hovering and standing back; catching him and letting him fall. I try not to care about a little mess, a little crayon on the table or the wall or the carpet. I don’t mind when Casey plays with his food and I try not to be too angry when Casey picks the flowers in our garden or pulls something up other than a weed, because he generally thinks he is helping me. He has no malicious intent yet. He’s mischievous, though. He’ll give me that sly sideways glance when he’s about to do something he knows he shouldn’t- and then squeals with delight when I “catch him” and pull him away. I try to distract him instead of always saying ‘no’ (although I say ‘no’ a lot) and I pick my battles, letting him throw a temper tantrum if he needs to because it’s important for him to learn that he can’t always get his way. He may throw himself to the floor and writhe there, crying, for a bit but when I simply walk away and ignore his antics he stops fairly quickly.  Of course when he is hurt or tired or hungry, I take him into my arms and comfort him and give him what he needs, be it a kiss or a nap or a snack, because I am his mama and as much as I want him to be independent and learn his limitations, I also want him to continue to run back into my arms as long as possible.

Before Casey was born, a friend asked me what type of parents Alex and I planned on being. The truth was we hadn’t really put much thought into it.  Sure, I had my thoughts on natural parenting and attachment parenting and punishment and montessori.  In conversations, before Casey was born, Alex and I agreed that we weren’t going to let Casey watch TV or play video games or play with our phones; that we wanted him to grow up playing outside, exploring nature, using his imagination to go on extraordinary adventures like we did when we were young. Beyond that all we really wanted to be was good parents who would accept their children unconditionally and provide a strong foundation and a loving home and, to that end, we have achieved our goal so far.  But you learn very quickly when you have a baby, that all your best laid plans for parenting are best thrown out the window.

Casey is nearly a year and a half now.  We are still breastfeeding.  He doesn’t sleep through the night yet. He does love to play outside and explore nature.  He also loves watching truck videos and some cartoons and, lately, football (that’s our boy!!).  He plays with our phones, knows to press the space bar to pause his videos on the computer and aims our remote at the T.V. because he knows that somehow the two are related.  On the playground, he can climb up and down the steps a hundred times without getting tired of it. He is usually interested in other kids, but not always.  Sometimes, he doesn’t care about all the sensory or art activities I try to engage him in but he loves playing with or in water.  He throws his toys sometimes but he will gladly bring us books and sit in our laps while we read to him.  He loves french fries.

What I am trying to say, I suppose, is that parenting is not easy.  It’s not something you can plan out.  It’s something you have to live day by day.  It’s easy to have good intentions, to read all the books and decide to practice attachment parenting or sleep training or want your kid to eat only organically.  There’s a lot of mommy shaming on social media and it’s easy to get sucked into that.  It’s easy to want to try to fit into a “category” of motherhood. But the truth is every child and every mother is different and sometimes your child doesn’t want to do the sensory activity that you spent hours researching on Pinterest and putting together, that you are so excited about.  Sometimes your child wants to watch videos all afternoon, or you want him to because you need to get stuff done, and sometimes your child would rather have french fries from MacDonald’s then the healthy lunch that you prepared.  And that’s ok.  It’s all ok. We go with the flow as mother’s, as parents, and some days are harder to get through then others.

We encourage Casey to follow his heart, to explore things, to try new things, to fall and get up and try again. We kiss his boo-boos when he has them and we get really excited every time he learns a new word, identifies a new color or letter, eats his food without spitting it out.  We take him into our arms as much as we can and give him a thousand kisses and then a thousand more.  He is our inspiration, our muse, the light in our lives but most of all, he is our son.  We are his parents.  We may not be the most patient parents, the most informed parents, the toughest parents, but we are the absolute best parents for Casey and I’m proud of us.  I think we are doing a great job.

wpid-20150730_141547.jpg wpid-20150816_102120.jpg wpid-20150803_163356.jpg wpid-20150813_193055.jpg wpid-20150819_102853.jpg

Like a fish or “Mama, mama”

He took to the water

like a fish;

A reflection of the sign

he was born under.

I told him not to fall asleep before we got home but he didn’t listen.  I glanced into the rearview mirror as we turned onto our street just in time to see his little lids drop closed.  Once we were parked in our driveway, under the shade of our big oak tree, I carefully lifted him out of his car seat and and carried him into the house and into his room where I managed, with only minor difficulty, to gently lower him onto his bed and settle him back to sleep.

I pushed his morning nap back by an hour and a half today.  We went to the library and then out to a coffee shop, where we split a blueberry muffin at a shady table on the outside patio.  Casey is smitten with blueberry muffins and I am happy to oblige this little treat.  Now that he is finally napping, I figure I have about an hour or so to write.  I had thought to sit down and write all about our Texas vacation.  I had it in my head that I would talk about what a wonderful time we had; how the heat was stifling during the day but once the shadows stretched over the first and second step of the pool in the early evenings, we got to enjoy daily swims.  Casey loved the water.  He was fearless, jumping off the first step into waiting arms with no hesitation, and by our final swim impressing us with how strong his kicks had gotten.

I also thought I might write about our trip to the zoo where Casey was enthralled with the “mo-mo’s” (flamingo’s) and recognized the giraffes (“raffs!” he exclaimed as he turned to look at me from his perch on the first rung of the wooden fence, pointing to the family of giraffe’s across the man made stream).  Maybe, I’d write about seeing the Longhorns in Fort Worth, Casey dipping his chips into the tomato soup at my favorite Mexican restaurant in Fort Worth, or our trip to the aquarium- how the air conditioning was a blessing and Casey was completely taken in from the first room where silver fish swam around the walls.

Except when I sat down to write all that, all I could think about was how completely fascinated I am by this little creature who grows more into a little boy everyday.  Even when I am at my wits end and want to scream with frustration, I am fascinated by him.  The way he laughs and the things he thinks are funny; what he eats, the way he eats it and what he chooses not to eat.  I am fascinated by his every action, the way he mimics our movements and our sounds, how he watches us watching him, the games he plays.  I am fascinated by his fascination with garbage trucks and how excited he gets when he hears a siren in the distance or the “beep, beep, beep” of a truck backing up.  He is endlessly entertaining, beginning now to roll his eyes (which everyone agrees he learned from me), attempt a somersault, and repeat our words in his cute little voice. I relish the unexpected pleasure I get when he decides of his own accord to come give me a kiss or reaches out for my hand when he needs help with something.

He has entered a “mama” stage where he simply cries “mama, mama” over and over and I can not express to you the warm feeling this gives me, even when it is repeated in screaming agony while we are trying to put him to sleep.

And now, he is awake.  I can hear him on the monitor- “Mama?” (that sweet little voice!)

I can do nothing except go to him, peaking in his room to find him siting up on his bed, pick him up and hold him close for a few moments before I release him into the hustle and bustle of our afternoon.  DSCN3156
DSCN3168

20150714_104042_010_0120150714_10442320150717_145313 20150714_093812 20150711_184145 20150712_165202