6 Things I’ve Learned in 6 Years of Motherhood

6 years ago yesterday, my first child, Meghan Jane, was born.

6 Things I've Learned in 6 Years of Motherhood

I spent my pregnancy reading books on babies and parenting, trying to prepare myself for what was coming.  I didn’t know, of course, that there isn’t a book out there that will prepare you for this wonderful, crazy, exhausting, thrilling, marvelous, tumultuous, amazing gift of motherhood.  Only motherhood itself can prepare you for all it has to offer.

I’m a mere 6 years into this lifetime job.  What do I know? Not much.  But I’m learning. Every day, I’m learning.  Here are six things I’ve learned so far.

6 Things I've Learned in 6 Years of Motherhood

#1 There is nothing like the love you have for your own child.

I thought I knew love before I gave birth to Meghan.  I did, to an extent.  I loved my parents and my brothers.  I loved my nieces and nephews. I met Tim and was swept off my feet and felt that crazy-in-love feeling.  But then I gave birth and realized there’s no love quite like the love you have for your own child.  I don’t think it was until I became a mother that I truly came to understand the love that God has for us.  A love so intense that you are willing to suffer and die for your children? Oh, yeah, now I know what that’s like.

6 Things I've Learned in 6 Years of Motherhood

#2 I have to be the person I want my children to become.

Oooh this is hard sometimes.  So I want my children to know and love God?  I have to know and love God myself, and show them that on a daily basis.  I want my children to be slow to anger.  So I have to be slow to anger.  Yep, I have to bite my tongue when I get cut off in traffic or when Tim does something I don’t agree with.  Those little people are always watching, and they are becoming what I am.

6 Things I've Learned in 6 Years of Motherhood

#3 I’m going to make a lot of mistakes.

As much as I want to be a perfect example for my children 100% of the time, I’m not.  I stumble and fall.  A lot.  Then I get back up and keep trying.  I’m faced with dozens of decisions I have to make on behalf of Meghan and Luke every day.  I know not every decision will be the right one.  But I’m dedicated to learning from my mistakes and giving everything I have to be the best mom I can be.

6 Things I've Learned in 6 Years of Motherhood

#4  I’m never going to put myself first again.  And I’m okay with that.

When you graduate high school and go off into the world, everything you do is about yourself.  Trying to figure out your life plan.  What you want to do.  Once you get married, the whole two-becomes-one thing happens, and there is a shift in thinking. Any lingering egocentrism starts to fade.  Then, a child comes into the picture, and hold onto your hats because everything changes.  I haven’t lost my independence.  I am a person outside of being a wife and mother.  This isn’t about that. Yet.  The well-being and happiness of the two little people I brought into the world (and my husband!) is what I care most about. That means I’m last on my personal totem pole and that’s fine by me.  Isn’t that the definition of motherhood?

#5 The grass isn’t greener on the other side of the mothering fence.

There will be moments when I’m envious of working moms who are climbing a career ladder while I’m doing a shapes puzzle on the floor, for the tenth time. Or the mom who never seems to be late to anything and hair isn’t in a messy bun and has make-up on. There’s always going to be a mom who seems to have it good, and wouldn’t that be great?  The truth is, I’m sure that working mom longs to have the time to do the same puzzle with her child ten times in a row.  That put-together mom is probably really tired because she got up at 5am in order to be so stinking organized.  God love her.  Mothers, no matter what our personal situations, are bound together by similar struggles, similar worries, and similar aspirations.  We all want to be the best moms we can and there’s no magical formula for that on the other side of the fence.

6 Things I've Learned in 6 Years of Motherhood

#6  There is no right way to do this.

I think it’s a natural instinct to constantly ask ourselves as parents, “Am I doing this right?”  The answer is there is no right way.  There are a lot of parenting paths you can take as you raise your children, and each that can lead to the same place.  How you get there isn’t always what’s important.  What matters is just that you are trying to get there.

What Can Happen If You Decide To Speak Up?

What can happen if you decide to speak up?

 

During Meghan’s first year of preschool, they served juice and some sort of processed food (such as crackers) for snack everyday.  It bothered me because those were not things I gave her at home often, but I didn’t say anything since she was only there three mornings a week.

The next year she was going to be going five mornings a week, and I hated to think about her having juice and crackers so often.  I gathered my courage and mentioned my concerns to the lead teacher.  She said she didn’t think the kids would drink anything other than juice, but she was willing to try serving water.  She was also open to different snack ideas.

She allowed me to volunteer as snack coordinator, and from then on the children were lucky enough to have fresh snacks, sent in from parent volunteers, every day.  Crackers were replaced with fruits, vegetables, and sometimes things like homemade mini muffins or granola bars.

Several moms thanked me and told me that their kids were trying more foods than they ever had before and liking fresh foods more than they thought possible!  The lead teacher said that the kids drank water without complaint and didn’t even ask for juice.  All because I decided to speak up.

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I was learning to say no when my kids were bombarded with treats after every activity.  One mom sent that blog article on to the owners of the swim school where Meghan and Luke take lessons.  The owner called me and thanked me for writing the post and asked about alternatives to the artificially-colored suckers they handed out after every lesson.  I suggested the organic brand Yum Earth.  She called the company and was quoted a price that was feasible, so she emailed me to let me know they were making the switch! Yes, it’s still sugar, but hundreds of kids will not be ingesting as many artificial food dyes because of that switch. All because I wanted to start a conversation.

I’m not writing this post to pat myself on the back.  I’m writing it to encourage you.  What changes do you want to see?  What would happen if you decided to use your voice and speak up?  If you are reading my blog, chances are you care about the health of the youth of today, whether you have kids or not.  How can you use that passion to spark change?  The more voices that are heard, the more change will happen.  What will you do?

Learning to Say No

It seems children today are offered candy or junk food during or after every activity in which they participate.  Where do you draw the line?  This is the story of how I’m learning to say no.   

Meghan had her first day of school yesterday. (She’s repeating kindergarten at a new school.) I picked her up and she chatted happily the entire ride home, telling me all the details of her day. It was such a relief to have her be happy, such a relief to know she had a good experience.

As mothers, I think it’s our instinct to want to hold on to our little ones, to not let go.  Having Meghan start school this year feels like I’m having to let go a little.

It’s a hard line to walk. I want her to go out into the world and be independent, yet I want to protect her and keep her safe.  The world is a scary place. There are so many things out there that can hurt her.  How can I keep all the bad things away? What do I let her experience on her own and what do I shelter her from?

I’m learning that there are times when I need to let go more and times when I need to hold on tighter.

This summer, Meghan did three activities.  She took swimming lessons, tennis lessons, and did a golf camp.  Every single one of those activities ended with a sweet treat.  Swimming and tennis were ongoing activities and after every lesson the kids were presented with a Dum Dum sucker.  The golf camp was only a 3 day event and at the end of each day the kids were given a full-sized candy bar.

Through the years I’ve settled on the philosophy that I will control what foods I buy, but won’t make my kids refuse treats at special occasions like birthday parties.  The older Meghan gets, however, the more I realize that those special occasions are not so special. Candy and junk foods are being handed out to my kids for everything they do.

And why do kids need candy after a sport lesson or camp, anyway?  What, exactly, is the purpose?  To reward the kids?  Why do they need a reward for taking a lesson?  Isn’t the lesson the reward?  It’s a privilege to be able to take a lesson.  The kids who are able to take lessons are lucky.  Why on earth would they need a piece of candy? It certainly seems to contradict the message of active, healthy living, which I would think any sport lesson should be trying to convey.

The breaking point for me came near the end of the summer.  I was sitting with Luke, watching Meghan get her tennis lesson.  There was a group of moms, none of whom I know that well. Luke, as a typical two-year-old, was not sitting still and he fell and started crying.  The head tennis coach went right for the sucker tub, declaring, “Oh, he needs a sucker!” Don’t get me wrong.  His heart was in the right place.  But my kid did not need a sucker because he was crying.  If I gave him a sucker every time he cried…well let’s just say he’d be eating suckers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  He’s two.

The tennis coach went on to say how popular the suckers had been that summer. They’d gone through 1,500 suckers. I wanted to say, “No, shit. Artificially colored sugar’s been a big hit among kids?! You don’t say?!” Instead I just smiled and nodded my head while my two-year-old got a blue mouth from the Blue #2 he was licking frantically.

After that day, I realized I’d had enough. I didn’t understand why I didn’t have it in me to speak up.  Why I couldn’t say the things I wanted to say to the people handing these candies that are potentially damaging to their developing brains?  Nobody wants to be the overbearing, crazy mom, right?  But I knew something was going to change.

I started by buying an organic bag of lollipops.  Still a ton of sugar in those things, but at least there wasn’t the artificial food dyes. I put it in my purse and was armed with an alternative to the suckers they were handing out.  I felt like at least I was doing something.

Meghan, of course, wanted to know what the difference was.  5-year-olds ask questions like this.  So I told her.  Those Dum Dums she’d been given were full of food dyes that were proven to be bad for our health and they could hurt her brain.  I liked giving her candies that were naturally colored better.

After that, she didn’t look twice at the Dum Dum bin after a swimming or tennis lesson. Tim brought her to her swimming lesson one day and came home shocked:  “What did you tell her about the suckers?  She said she didn’t want one because they weren’t healthy for her.” And he didn’t even have an alternative to give her.  She basically forgot about wanting a sucker at all and since then doesn’t ask for the organic lollipops.

I kick myself for waiting so long to just say no.  I’m not sure what I was afraid of.  My kids throwing a fit?  (Wouldn’t be the first time.) Being judged by other moms?  (I’m sure it wouldn’t be the first time for that, either.)  My kids feeling deprived? (Doesn’t every kid need a healthy dose of that once in a while?)

Slowly, I’m learning to say no.  It’s okay to stand up for what I think is important in real life, not just hidden behind this blog.  Why is it so much easier to publish it on the Internet than say it out loud? I don’t have to pressure anyone to make the same decisions for their kids that I do.  I won’t judge you if you aren’t as afraid of artificial food dyes as I am.  But I’m done being quiet about my kids getting candy or junk food that I don’t want them to have day after day.  Sometimes, it’s my job to say no.

What do you think?  Am I crazy or is the amount of candy offered to our kids outrageous?  How do you handle it?  

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 1/2 Years

Remember this guy?  He’s 2 1/2! I am in awe of the toddler my little baby’s grown into.

He’s a walking, talking, big-boy-potty-using cool guy who is equally loving and gentle as rough and tumble.  And I just keep falling more in love with him everyday.

Ready for some updates? Feel free to just scroll through and check out the pictures. I get it.      Otherwise, enjoy the details!

Growth & Development

At his 2 1/2 year check up, Luke was 32 pounds, 4 ounces (75 percentile) and 38 1/2 inches tall (95th percentile).  He’s grown 2 inches in the last six months! He towers over a lot of kids his age.

His development is right on track.  He talks in complete sentences–paragraphs really! His favorite phrase that cracks me up lately is “Woah–that was a close one!” which he says basically about everything, close one or not.

He’s a super active kid who tries his best to keep up with his big sister.  He tries to run as fast, jump as high, and climb all over everything just like she does.  He pretty much adores Meghan and she’s a great big sister to Luke.

MSPI

If you’ve been reading a while, you know that Luke was diagnosed with Milk Soy Protein Intolerance when he was an infant. As far as we can tell, he’s outgrown this. I’m a far way from totally understanding food intolerances, but he doesn’t show any obvious symptoms of not tolerating any of the food he eats.  I’ve not been restricting his diet for a while now, and his stools are normal.  I was worried that they aren’t always formed, but his doctor assured me this can be normal at this age, especially if the child eats a lot of fruit (he does).  That being said, he doesn’t eat a lot of dairy or soy.  Although I’m sure he gets some soy in various forms, especially when we eat out, he’s refused the soy things I’ve offered him (tofu and edamame).  I’ve never offered him cow’s milk, but I have offered him cheese and he doesn’t like it much so has only had a few bites. He does like macaroni and cheese, so that’s the most dairy he’s eaten in one sitting.  I also use butter on things like toast, pancakes, etc and he likes that. He also gets some milk from the bread we eat.  So while I think he’s mostly outgrown it, I can’t say how he’ll do if/when he has larger quantities.

Potty Training

We are three weeks into potty training and he’s doing great! The first week was rough, but it’s gotten better and better each week. I used the bare bottom method and just rushed him to the toilet (or small potty chair) any time I saw him looking like he needed to go.  Now he initiates and tells me when he needs to go.  We even went out two full mornings last week with underwear on and he went to the bathroom in public places and didn’t have any accidents.  I’m crossing my fingers that it keeps going well!

Breastfeeding

I really need to write a separate post about extended breastfeeding.  For now I’ll just say that yes, I’m still breastfeeding.  I thought we’d be done by now, but Luke just wants no part of weaning, and I have no desire to force him to wean.  So on we go.  I did gently encourage him to cut out one feeding (the morning feeding) so now he just nurses twice a day, once before his nap and once before bed.  I hope that he decides to wean himself as that would make my life much easier, but for now I’m content with how things are.

Sleeping and Eating

Luke’s settled into a great little sleeper.  Go ahead and knock on wood for me, but right now he’s sleeping through the night 10-11 hours and then takes a long 2-3 hour nap, starting around 1:00.  It took a while to get here, but I’m so glad he’s finally consistent!

Predictably, he’s entered into a finicky eating stage. I knew that most toddlers go through a “picky” phase that usually starts between 2 and 2 1/2. I was ready for this, but it’s still frustrating. He still has his days where he eats really well, so it could be a lot worse.  His favorite fruits right now are grapes and watermelon and his favorite vegetables are broccoli and cucumbers.  He loves steak, but won’t eat chicken very much lately.  Sometimes he’ll eat fish, sometimes not.  He used to love beans, now those are really hit or miss.  (Unless I put them in a cookie.  Then he’s all for the beans.)  I’m just going to ride out this stage and know that it gets easier.  I’ve been there, done that with Meghan.

I’ll leave you with one last picture of Luke and his handsome daddy.  Everyone says he looks just like him.  Do you agree?

 

You Can Go Your Own Way

Meghan had a ballet recital this weekend.  The opening act danced to Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac.  As the older dancers moved across the stage to those iconic words, I couldn’t help but think about how sure I was Meghan wouldn’t be dancing this year.

Well before her first recital last year, Tim and I decided we’d had enough of this dance business.  The 9 month commitment to perform a 3-minute number.  The expense of it all:  shoes, tights, leotards, monthly tuition, costume fees, recital fees.  It never seemed to end.  When we got a three-page letter about the recital and all it entailed, we thought: This is it.  No more dance.  

Then we saw her face after her first recital performance. After she exited the stage, we rushed out to meet her in the hallway.  She was at the end of a long corridor, and ran towards us full speed.  It was as if pure adrenalin had taken over her four-year-old body.  Her face was full of joy and it was the happiest I remember seeing her, and she’s a girl who’s always pretty happy.  We learned that not only did she love dancing, she loved performing.

Right then and there I knew this dance business wasn’t over.

We put Meghan in dance because as a small toddler she loved dancing around our living room.  In soccer at age three, she mostly danced up and down the field.  She seemed to dance wherever she went, so it was a logical choice to let her try a ballet class.

I wondered if she’d get bored of it this year.  Instead, her love of dance only grew stronger. If you asked her today what she wants to be when she grows up, she’d answer:  a dancer.  

It’s hard for me to imagine her being a serious dancer.  The costumes, the make-up, it’s all so not…me.  Oops.  I guess this isn’t about me, is it?

I don’t know how long Meghan will continue with dance.  Maybe it will be 2 more years, or maybe it will be 20.  I’m enjoying the process of watching her develop her own passions. Maybe they’ll change.  She’s only 5.  Either way, they are her passions.

Whether it be dance, music, soccer, or juggling, Meghan, you can go your own way.  And Daddy, Luke, and I will be right by your side, cheering you on.