Nothing is actually better than Something

About a year ago I watched the documentary “The Minimalists”. Its all about these two friends who worked in the corporate world and, just like so many of us, lived and breathed work, money, and the general hustle. They talked about how they came to the realization that it just wasn’t bringing them joy and from there the journey to minimalism began. Obviously, it’s much more detailed and interesting but it was this documentary that spurred my year of personal growth.

Like I do, I watched the documentary and, literally, the moment it ended I was already filling bags and getting rid of ALL excess things. It clicked for me. Not only did I understand it but I knew that I needed it. One of the most significant things I’ve learned this year is how important support is. First of all, I have my husband who has always not only supported me as in “allowing” me to do things my way but if, after I explain the what and whys to him, it makes sense….he joins in on the fun (and sometimes sits back and laughs at how quickly things change around here). There is nothing better than truly having and being a partner to your partner. Beyond that, when I am interested in learning more about something and making life changes, I immerse myself in knowledge. I read the books, I watch the videos, I Listen to the podcasts, find like minded friends, and join support groups online. I rarely actually participate in these groups but knowing there are people out there more experienced than me is comforting. They provide excellent guidance to people who are taking the time to ask questions (that I get to read and learn from) and sometimes they’ll share relative articles that answer questions I didn’t even know I had. Knowing I don’t know everything about absolutely anything and constantly seeking information has opened up my world. I’ve found that people want to share their knowledge just to share it and make the world better. I am grateful for these people!

There is one question frequently asked to The Minimalists that I hear on their weekly podcasts and that is “How can you be a minimalist with kids?”. I am happy that they continued to answer this question week after week because it took months for it to really sink in for me. Basically, it’s no different than being a minimalist without kids. You go through all things and get rid of the things that don’t bring you joy or add value to your life. The trick is, though, that the “you” in that scenario is the child. It’s not ok for me to go through their things and toss out the things I don’t like (those God forsaken tiny shopkins!) if it still brings joy to them. The good thing to know, though, is that kids are smarter and more intuitive than we give them credit for. A couple times a month I’ll give the kids a bag (reusable or a box now that zero waste is a part of my journey!) and ask them to work together and put all the things away that they think they don’t care for anymore or that someone who has no toys would really appreciate more than they do now. The only rule is they have to ask each other before putting anything in the bag or else Medina will put all of Amaya’s favorite toys in the bag and vice versa. They always come back with a full bag that they’re happy to part with. On more than one occasion I’ve had to take a toy out because it held sentimental value to me. I held on to it for a bit longer then, after seeing it just sit on my dresser for a few months, I realized it doesn’t serve any real purpose so I took a picture then got rid of it when I was ready. When I was ready. Minimalism means something different to everyone. It absolutely should not feel torturous. It should feel like a weight is lifted to bring you more joy. It takes time and can be done in small steps. Over the year I’ve learned that something can seem important today and that same thing is worth donating next week. So it is a constant evaluation of the things coming into and leaving your home…..or your life. Minimalism applies to people and situations too. If it/he/she isn’t ADDING value to your life or is something/someone that brings you joy then it’s time to part with it/them.

It’s taken a full year for me to get to a point where I truly, deep down, don’t desire anything more than what I need. I didn’t think I would ever get to this point (and still have ways to go, I think). For example, My wardrobe now consists of 2 black pants, 4 tshirts, 2 hoodies, 2 nice tops, 2 long sweaters, 1 skirt, and a pair of jeans. Granted, I’m a stay at home mom so this wouldn’t work for everyone but it works for me. I wash every morning and start again. For the kids: I took them shopping and let them pick out a few of their favorite things at a good quality store. So they were a little more expensive ($8 for a tiny tshirt) but since they’re only getting a few tops for the season I want them to be good quality and something they love (think sparkles, sequins, and unicorns). Their wardrobe now consists of 8 shirts, 2 sweaters, 2 dresses, and 5 pants. They don’t like jeans so I don’t buy jeans. Even with just these clothes, they wear the same 2 shirts 90% of the time. They have no desire (and therefore no need) for anything more!

So…What’t the point?

The idea here is, especially for me, that I spend too much of my life worrying about my things (cleaning them, organizing them, buying them, etc. ) and not enough time doing the things i love and add value to my life and the lives of those around me. Also, I am an anxious person and nothing triggers my anxiety quite like a mess and when I’m anxious I have less patience, and when I have less patience this house is not as peaceful and joyful as it can be. When my to do list is short (or even non existent!) then I have all the time in the world to just sit and play with the kids. 9 out of 10 times I say no to playing (or spending time with Sameer) because of household chores that need to be done. Less stuff=less chores. Less chores=more time with my loves. More time with my loves=more joy for all of us…and who doesn’t need a little more joy in their life?

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Preschoolers: Let them (not) eat!

Every day was a struggle. Every. Single. Day. It didn’t matter what I served them or when. It didn’t matter if it was one of their “favorite” foods or not, The girls just never happily finished their food. They sat down in front of their plates three times a day with a grunt of disappointment and an hour or more or complaining, bargaining, mess making, and goofing around. I was 5 months pregnant and at my limit. I gave the girls a bowl of rice and daal (lentils), something they sometimes love and sometimes hate and, unfortunately for me, that turned out to be a hate day. Both Medina and Amaya whined as I put the bowls in front of them. I was low on patience and just turned around to take a breath. As my back turned towards them, a bowl crashed to the floor- then silence. Amaya somehow knocked her bowl off the table and all the food was spread out across the freshly mopped floor. I wanted to cry. I was literally holding back tears over the spilled food. At this point the girls, ages 2 and 3, had mostly stopped napping but I decided to end lunch and send them to bed. They weren’t happy about it but I needed a moment to think about what was happening and, quite frankly, to cry a little bit without little judging eyes watching me. I knew there had to be a better way. There had to be something I could do differently because I just couldn’t go on fighting with them every day. As it turns out- there WAS a better (and so much easier) way!

 

I sat down to do a little research and there were a lot of things I learned that day. I studied the food pyramid and realized I was feeding them too much of the wrong things and that, most days, they were probably not getting much more than grains and dairy. I learned that their bellies are small and that a full sized serving for them is TINY. So much less than I thought it was. Do you know what 1/4cup of loosely packed rice with chicken looks like? It basically looks like crumbs. However, learning about what to feed them wasn’t my biggest takeaway. My epiphany of that day was that I wasn’t respecting my children. Not only was I ignoring their feelings, I was teaching them to disregard what their bodies were telling them too! Let me explain….

 

Here are some examples mealtime conversations we would have:

 

Medina: I’m not hungry

Me: you haven’t eaten in hours, just eat your food please

 

Amaya: I don’t like this

Me: Well, I’m sorry but that’s too bad. That’s what we’re having for lunch today so you have to eat it

Amaya: *Takes a few small bites while crying*

 

Medina: I’m full

Me: there are just a few more bites on your plate, don’t waste your food

 

Amaya: I’m thirsty

Me: You can have something to drink when you eat some of your food

 

 

Typing that out made me cringe. There is so much wrong with the way we, as a society, treat our children. Like they know absolutely nothing. As though we know what they’re feeling better than they do. I stumbled upon an article while the girls were “napping” that day. It explained how we have such a broken bond with our own bodies that we don’t know how to tune in and listen to what we need to nourish it. We are actually born with the ability to know when to eat and how much. When a baby is born they literally need only drops of food. They know this. But even then, we sometimes try to get them to eat more. WHY?! Why do we do these things?? What is our obsession with not only over eating, but also OVER FEEDING?! Over the years we ignore our kids when they tell us they’re full. OR they don’t like something, or that they’re not hungry and over time they start to just ignore what they’re feeling. How sad is that? We actually teach our kids to ignore their own bodies. We are essentially breaking that bond for them. It broke my heart. Once I realized that it was my approach that was causing all this chaos in our lives, I started to think about how I could give them back their power and autonomy. I immediately implemented a few meal time changes:

 

  • Best decision EVER: I bought portion plates. They’re plates that have 5 small sections. So a typical lunch plate would be half a chicken sandwich, three raw spinach leaves, 5-6 strawberries, 4-5 raw almonds, about 2 ounces of yogurt (half of a kid’s yogurt cup). This way, they’re getting the nutrition they need from all their food groups every single day. The reason this made such a difference is that I realized just looking at a pile of one food was very overwhelming to the girls. The variety gives them the feeling of choice and when they finish the small portion size in a little section makes them feel accomplished! They eat the food in any order they like, and however gross their order might be to me sometimes, they love it! It’s especially fun if I put pudding or some other sweet in one portion and they have the choice to eat it first if they’d like to. Funny thing is, they realized all on their own that eating sweet first is no fun because it makes the food taste differently so they almost always save it for last now.
    • IMG_7134

 

  • I ask them if they’re hungry. If they say no, I don’t serve them. I want them to feel hungry and know what that feeling is.

 

  • They always have 2-3 choices to choose from. “would you like a chicken sandwich or veggie pasta” Always things I already have on deck.

 

  • They have to try at least one bite of EVERYTHING on their plate. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to eat it but they’re not allowed to say they don’t like it if they don’t try it. This has worked SO much better than I could have ever imagined it would and has added a whole new world of foods to Medina’s list. But the key is truly being ok with them not eating it. They have to trust I won’t make them eat all of it or make them feel badly about their opinion in order for them to take the bite. My research taught me that sometimes a kid has to try the same food 10 times or more before they develop a taste for it. So as long as they take that one bite I have hope. I keep putting new things in their plates and having them take that one little taste. My biggest fear doing this was that it might teach them that it’s ok to waste food. But the truth is that they definitely waste less overall and every time they don’t want to eat it I just remind them that it isn’t nice to waste food so that they have it in mind. I trust that, in the long run, if they have a healthy relationship with food they will be less wasteful adults.

 

  • If they say they’re full. They’re full. I have no way of knowing why they don’t want to finish their food so I have to trust what they tell me. I don’t want them to ignore their sense of being full just to satisfy my need to make them eat. My response to “I’m full” before the plate is cleared is always “That’s fine, but no snacks until the next meal time” Sometimes they’re ok with no snacks so they’ll walk away and sometimes (especially if a sibling is eating a yummy snack) they’ll go back to the plate and finish it on their own!

 

  • ALWAYS provide water. They need it and are most likely not getting enough of it. I give them one kids cup full of water with their meal (more if they feel it’s spicy) and as much as they’d like whenever they’d like the rest of the day.

 

  • They have full access to healthy snacks all day. Yogurt, fruit, veggies, and nuts are available all day everyday (except when they don’t finish a meal).

 

 

We are going on 2 years of this new approach and this has been completely life changing for all of us! I no longer dread meal times and both girls try any where from 1-5 new foods every week. More than that, though, I love to see them making good food choices all on their own. I make it a point to keep a food pyramid in the kitchen so that they can point out what food groups they’re eating from and we can talk about the effects of sugar and fats and how eating has an impact on how they feel now as well as how they’ll feel in the future.

 

The concept of children and their bodily autonomy goes so much deeper than food, too. I’m still learning how to go about it just the right way but my goal is to guide my girls into trusting their feelings and intuition. As they grow into young women and make their way out into a world that likes to make women second guess themselves, it can provide them with a comfort and confidence….and that can be their super power.

It isn’t silence. It’s compassion.

On my quest to become a better, more patient, connected, and loving parent, I’ve come across many wonderful resources. I can’t remember which one it was that recently brought to my attention the importance of being silent. More specifically, being silent when the kids are hurt or having a hard time. Just being there for them. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t already doing that. I truly didn’t know how badly I needed to have that brought to my attention. So, I’ve spent the last couple weeks focusing on being silent. Just keeping my opinions and “guidance” to myself. IT WAS SO HARD! I mean, damn near impossible sometimes! It made me realize that I can be really annoying! **insert eye roll from close family friends who already know this**

Basically, the idea is that if my child is hurt, either physically or emotionally, just allowing them to come to me comfort without me judging what got them there and/or telling them how they can avoid it next time. Here are a few examples of what that looked like this past week:

Scenario 1:
Medina (5 years old) likes to sit at the edge of her chair while she eats. She just fell off the chair for the THIRD time in a week and hurt her elbow/knee/hand. She came running to me screaming and crying.

What I wanted to say (and usually would): “Shhhh, it’s ok. You’re ok. My love, if you would just sit in the center of your chair this wouldn’t happen. How many times have I asked you to sit nicely? Do you see what happens when you don’t sit nicely?”

What I actually said: Nothing. I hugged her, kissed her where it hurts, and let her walk away when she was done being comforted by me.

Let me tell you, it was hardest as she was walking away. She was walking back to her chair and, in my mind, she was just going to sit her little butt right back at the edge of that chair and eventually fall off again. I lost it a little in my mind. She was walking away and I was holding back a ridiculous number of thoughts that wanted to spew out like incoherent babble at that point just to get out of my brain. But I didn’t allow it. I took a deep breath and went back to what I was doing without addressing it as a problem that needed to be fixed.

 

Scenario 2:
Medina and Amaya (3 year old) were playing in the basement. Medina wanted a snack and came upstairs. Amaya didn’t realize Medina left and got scared. Mind you, this happens almost everyday. Amaya ran upstairs crying uncontrollably because she was scared of the noises coming from the water heater closet.

What I wanted to say: “There’s nothing to be scared of, my love. We’ve talked about this before and It was just the noises coming from the water heater.” (in a frustrated and exhausted tone of voice, of course!)

What I said: “I’m sorry you were scared.” Then I hugged her until she let go.

 

Scenario 3:
Medina was running with a snow globe we got on our trip to Turkey. She slipped, fell, and it shattered on the bathroom floor. She started crying and saying “BUT I LOVE THAT SNOW GLOBE!!”

What I wanted to say: “Well WHY were you running with something made of glass? You know better than that! I’ve told you before to play nicely with it because it can break easily. Well, that’s what happens when you’re not careful with your things.”

What I said: “I’m sorry your favorite snow globe is broken.” I hugged her until she let go. Then I asked her if she would help me clean it up by getting the things I needed to clean it so I could keep Lana (1 year old) away from the broken glass.  She did.

 

So, here is what I’ve learned so far: All I was doing, by addressing the situation right away, was kicking them while they were down. It didn’t help anything. It didn’t teach them anything because they’re not really listening while they’re so upset and it made them feel worse than they already did. I’m ashamed to admit that “correcting” them was probably just a stress reliever for me. The fact that it was sometimes ridiculously hard to keep my “corrections” to myself proved to me that I was just looking for a release. As a matter of fact, there was one time I just couldn’t control it and that’s when it really hit me. I wish I wrote down the scenario that led up to it because I can’t remember it at the moment, but the result hit me hard.

Medina was upset about something and, as I was hugging her, I went through a whole mess of thoughts and told myself I wasn’t going to say anything but even as I was thinking not to, my mouth opened and the I told you so came out. That’s when I noticed it….as soon as the words came out of my mouth, she clenched her body, and her cry got a little louder. She already knew. She didn’t need me to tell her. She needed me to hold her. I wasn’t even doing it right but she still wanted to be there with me. ONLY me. That’s the sadness of it all for me. For most of the day, they only have me to run to. I AM their comfort. So when they come to me for comfort I just turn around and make them feel worse?

Most of all, I thought about all the stupid things I do in a day and how I would feel if I had someone watching me all the time telling me that I knew better and what I could do differently next time. I thought about if that person was my husband. The first person I run to for comfort. I thought about how damaging that would be for our relationship. How unloved I would feel. Why would my children feel any different?

It’s hard, sometimes, to think of such little people as human beings with complex thoughts and feelings. It really is so simple, though, at the same time. They are me. How I like to feel, they like to feel. They only want to be loved and respected they just don’t know how to express to me what they need from me in our relationship. Deep down I already know. It’s just a matter of controlling my need to control them and make loving them and respecting them a priority.

I’m a work in progress but I am intent on progressing.

 

Three kids: The ultimate conversation starter

After having our morning cuddle, Medina and Amaya decided to lock themselves away in the school room and do a few pages in their workbooks while I got Lana up and bathed and ready for the day. After her bath, Lana and I joined the girls in the school room and we all colored and played with magnets for a little while. I got cleaned up and made my way to the kitchen only to realize we were out of all our breakfast items. So I told the girls to do their morning chores and we would grab breakfast on the way out to the store. They finished their chores in record time and stood by the door ready to go. They chose fruit and yogurt for breakfast so we got some and talked about our favorite fruits and where they come from. Then we spent the next hour or so wandering around a new store. We didn’t have any other pressing plans for the day so I let the girls take the lead. We stopped to smell all the fresh soaps, we looked through some books, we talked about essential oils, we even picked up a couple balls and practiced dribbling for a while. The point is, we had a perfectly pleasant morning. We usually do have perfectly wonderful days. And yet, people keep stopping to tell me, in so many words, how sorry they are for me. How they want to help me count down the days until this stage is over. “This will pass soon enough” “wow, I don’t know how you’d do it…One is more than enough for me!”. Now, what they’re saying isn’t necessarily a problem. I know that they mean well and this is their attempt at empathizing with me. The problem is…my kids are RIGHT THERE. They’re looking. They’re listening. They’re feeling these words and looking at me for my response. I mean, I get it. Some days are just chaos and when my husband walks through the door I hand over all responsibility and hide my face in chocolate until all the children are asleep. But the truth is, most days are great. Most days we laugh, read, cuddle, dance, and experience life together. So when someone said (with a wide eyed look of terror) “wow, three kids under 6? How do you deal with life?” I didn’t really know what to say. The girls stopped talking. Probably just because I was engaging with a stranger but they were silent nonetheless. They just looked at me waiting for my response. I felt Medina’s eyes burning a hole right into my soul at the same time that this lady was waiting for some kind of answer to her ridiculous question.

 

How do I deal with life??? How do I deal with three little angels who want to cuddle and kiss me more than I have the patience for some days? Who want to help me wash dishes, fold clothes, or whatever other never ending chore just to be near me? Who will sit at the bathroom door with their fingers wiggling underneath it because they want to hear me laugh on the other side? How do I deal with this abundance of love?? I don’t know. How do they deal with me? Because I do know that I don’t always return their love in the way they deserve- but I’m working on it. I do know that when they’re not near me my heart aches. What I CAN tell you is that even on my most crabby and irritable days I have three incredibly forgiving little people ready to love me with a force that baffles me.

 

But I know that’s not what she’s looking for. She’s looking to bond with me over our mutual done-ness with kids and motherhood. Usually, I’d engage. I’d stand there and act as though I understand where she’s coming from… but I would be doing that for her. For this stranger who is inadvertently insulting my girls to their faces. So, while everyone stands around me waiting for me to be done having an internal debate, I decided to stand up for the girls by disengaging. I shrugged and smiled and walked away. Then I got down on my knees, looked them both in the face, and told them that I’m sorry. I said that I know they hear people tell me how much trouble it is to have 3 kids and that they keep me really busy but that I LOVE it. There is nothing in this world I would rather be busy with.

 

They attacked me with hugs and kisses. I fell to the ground in the middle of the international aisle with them on top of me laughing and kissing me, with Lana squealing in the cart and kicking her feet from all the excitement.

 

Then we went on about our day just making rounds through aisles we’d already visited. More people stopped to tell me how difficult my life is and that it’ll pass before I know it and I just smiled at the girls, touched their faces, shrugged and kept it moving.

 

It isn’t fair to the girls, who are following all our rules, having a fun and happy day with me, to have to hear people tell me how awful it is to have them around all the time….and then if I was to agree? Seriously awful. But I have done it before because I understand where it’s coming from. I know that it truly is coming from a place of parenthood comradery- but it isn’t worth it. While I’m standing around having a conversation, the girls are looking back and forth between me and the stranger and absorbing all the information from the conversation. They’ll never say anything to me about it but I have been surprised by their knowledge too many times in the past to claim ignorance on their ability to comprehend what is happening around them.

 

I realized, today, that if I would have engaged in everyone who stopped to talk about how I have 3 girls so close in age and all the things that come along with that conversation…the girls would have had to hear about their being a burden 5 times. IN ONE HOUR.

 

A couple posts back I wrote about Positive Parenting and changing the way we speak about our children. I feel like that’s easier to do in my own head than it is to do when someone else is leading the conversation because I don’t want to be that person who just stops the conversation and , believe me, discouraging negativity sometimes does just that. Not everyone has the patience for happy people…but you know who always does? My family. Just like everything else, the more I practice being happy and positive, the easier it becomes to truly see things that way. This is my life. I don’t want to continue trekking along always waiting for the next stage. The easier stage. I’m going to enjoy this and all the steps along the way and I’m going to continue to let my kids know how much I appreciate their presence in my life because….how else will they know?

Minding words and guiding love

A topic that often comes up among my mom friends is how to avoid jealousy between siblings. As with everything, I believe we, as parents, plant the seed. Many times, unknowingly, we do and say things that encourage siblings to resent each other- sometimes before they’re even born! It is up to us to help nourish a loving bond between them. It’s most helpful if it begins before a new baby is born but, if you’ve already passed that stage, it’s not too late!! There are always improvements to be made!

*This post is all important but a longer one so if you don’t feel like you have the time, or want, to read it all then just skip to number 4 for one that can quickly be implemented today!*

Starting out, I hadn’t intended on making these posts in bullet points but its easier to organize my thoughts that way… so here are a few ways (in no particular order) that we can help build a better bond between our children:

 

1.Participation

Our days are busy and there is always so much to be done and, if you’re pregnant, all these things take ten times the amount of effort to accomplish. It’s understandable that you don’t have the time to let a toddler help you complete your tasks. However, it’s SO important that, when you’re preparing for baby, big brother or sister gets to help. Putting together a crib? Let them hold the instructions. Let them try to screw something in or hold up a piece of the bed. Anything. It’s going to make the process a little longer but it’ll be well worth it in the end. Anything that has to do with new baby should include big brother or sister as well. Shopping for clothes? Pick two outfits that you love and ask them to choose the one they like best. Then let them fold it and put it away (or hang it) once you get home. If they show interest in anything that has to do with the pregnancy or the baby, don’t dismiss them. Answer their questions and ask them follow up ones. Do anything you can, before baby comes, to make big brother or sister feel like it is just as much their baby as it is yours (also, make sure to make it clear that they are big sibling and not mommy or daddy because I’ve seen this go overboard in the other direction and the big brother or sister wants to take over being the parent and gets upset when the parents try to do anything because they’ve been told it’s “Their” baby. Balance and clarity is key). Keep in mind that there are going to be times that they DON’T want to help or talk about the new baby. That’s ok too. Let them take the lead on their feelings and run with it. If you get offended when they don’t want to participate it’s going to feel like they’re being forced into it.

 

Same goes for older siblings. It’s all about participation. When one has something special, the others are there to encourage them. The reason for this, is that it isn’t always possible to have them all in the same amount of programs or get the same amount of presents, or whatever. Things cannot always be physically or monetarily equal. So, we have help them encourage each other. Help them see their place in what everyone else is doing. For example, When Medina (5yo) plays soccer, the younger ones have “jobs”. Amaya (3yo) is the water girl and Lana (1yo) is the cheer leader (she claps and screams). When Amaya has a class, Medina and Lana are waiting to give her hugs when she’s done and I help Medina come up with questions to ask Amaya about her class. Whatever it is, they’re all involved in it together in one way or another.

 

2. Honesty

 

Here it is again! Honesty is the basis off which all that I do with the kids. It’s definitely difficult sometimes, that’s for SURE! But, really, it makes things more simple in the long run and being honest with them has a great effects all around. If you want to teach them to be understanding, you have to give them the opportunity to understand. Just like adults, they wont always accept the truth gracefully. That’s perfectly ok. Just because they’re crying over the truth doesn’t mean they didn’t need to hear it. For example, Amaya and Medina share a bedroom. Amaya has to go to bed at 7 and Medina at 8. As you can imagine, Amaya was NOT happy about this recent change. I had to talk to her and tell her that she’s 3 and Medina is 5 and she needs more sleep than Medina does to be able to grow and once she’s 5 she can stay up another hour too, if she wants to. It took a few days of explaining it again and again but now it’s normal. She knows what’s happening and she understands the reason why. Also, It is now a part of Amaya’s routine that Medina hugs her sister goodnight and walks her to bed (participation). It would be so much easier to dismiss Amaya’s sadness about the change, or lie and say Medina will be in bed in a few minutes or something but the unintentional repercussions of that is resentment between siblings. Amaya will not understand WHY it’s happening and it’ll seem like we are favoring Medina. If something is seemingly unfair, explain to the kids why it’s necessary. Over and over again if they need it. Eventually they’ll get it and they won’t blame each other.

Same goes for siblings of babies. Explaining that babies have different needs (and maybe adjusting a little so that they can help with those needs if they want to) can have an immense effect on their connection to each other. Again, when things are seemingly unfair, take the time explain why they are necessary. I know some people will try to make things fair by saying things like…”ok you can stay up until the baby falls asleep”….but you’re only hurting yourself in the long run. Things can be fair without being the same. The earlier kids know this the better it is for all of you.

 

 

3. Get rid of unnecessary competitions

I restrict competing to actual competitions. Which is rare. So rare, in fact, I’m not sure they’ve competed against each other in anything other than a race across the yard. Not that I don’t find value in competing but I do think there is a time and a place. Neither of which are at home amongst the family while doing family things. A common competition is “who can finish their food first?!”- but it doesn’t matter. As long as they finish, who cares who finishes their food first? The problem with this is that, generally, one child always just eats better and faster than the other. For me, Amaya gags if she eats too quickly or takes bites that are too large, so she just naturally has to eat slower. It also really crushes her spirit when people point out how slow she is….but she almost always finishes everything on her plate so it’s unnecessary to do that to her. All it does is make her annoyed with her sister for being able to eat so quickly. Btw, it’s also a really unhealthy habit to eat quickly, so this is a bad competition all around. I was going to take the time to list a number of other competitions that need to go but, really, I can’t think of any that are good for a sibling relationship. A competition is literally a rivalry- and a rivalry definitely has no place within a family. If you find yourself saying “look ________is doing it better/faster than you” or ” lets see who can ____________first” just to get them to do things more quickly then take a moment to evaluate why you needs these things done quickly- if for any reason at all! Sometimes we just get into the habit of rushing for the sake of rushing. Slow down a little and help them encourage each other instead of wanting to “beat” each other see how quickly that’ll change their relationship!

 

 

 

4. Taking the name out of excuses

 

A small change in the way we speak makes BIG difference in how kids interpret a situation. When you say:

“I can’t help you right now, the baby needs to be fed”

they hear:

“I’m giving my time to the baby and not you”

instead you can say:

“I’m busy right now, I can help you in about 10 minutes, I’ll set the timer for you”.

Then no one gets the blame for you being unavailable.

Always rearrange your words in such a way that you acknowledge what they need and let them know when you will be able to attend to them. It’s very difficult for kids to understand how a parent’s time needs to be split amongst the family so instead of saying where else your attention is going to right at that moment, let them know when the attention will be back on them. Instead of “I need to help Amaya right now, I’ll read to you later” I simply say “I’m sorry I can’t read to you right this moment, but if you wait for me in your bed, I’ll be there as soon as I can.” then I make sure to do just that.

 

 

The right thing to do isn’t always the easy thing to do. These little beings are watching us and responding to everything we do so, even after we’ve responded to everyone’s needs all day, we have to pull it together and continue respond to their needs with love, kindness, and compassion and hope that we do a good enough job that they learn it and send it back out into the world as they grow. OH! And of course- chocoalte. Lots of chocolate, coffee, and Target are involved in the success of this….and all other things.

 

 

 

Little girls and footballs make the world a better place

As I walked Medina on to the field for her first flag football practice parents cheered for her. “YAY!” “We have a girl on our team this year!” one mom said. Another chimed in with “I think we had one last year too.” ONE. SHE THINKS. We got a similar reaction when both Medina and Amaya started basketball camp this year. It’s awesome that parents are excited to see them there but it’s also sad to me that it’s such a rare sight to them. It’s 2017 and people are still limiting their girls to what are traditionally “girl” sports: dance, cheer, gymnastics, etc. Those are amazing and important programs, for sure, but there’s so much to be learned from playing a variety of strong and competitive team sports that so many girls are missing out on. These are my reasons for encouraging my little girls to play with the boys:

1. Because they can.
Especially before puberty hits, girls are the same size as boys their age. They can also be JUST as fast, strong, and agile. There is no real reason to think that a young girl would be any different out on the field than a boy her age except if, right from the get-go, we put her in little glass box and keep her from moving, exploring, and building on these characteristics. When Medina (5 years old) first put her flags on and got in line I could tell she was nervous. She stood fidgeting at the end and twisting her flags. She watched as the boys ran after the ball while she just spun around in circles. BUT the moment she got the ball it clicked. She out ran the boys got her first touch down….. and fell in love. Medina isn’t one who enjoys doing difficult things so it’s important to me to keep proving to her that she can overcome her self-doubt, new things are not always difficult things and that just because she hasn’t done something doesn’t mean she can’t do it.

2. Respect.
When my girls are on teams with boys, they’re ON their team. The boys treat them as equals and the coach expects the same out of them as the boys on the team. In a world where women are still fighting for equal opportunities and treatment, it is important for girls to learn, right now, to never expect anything less. Also, it’s important for the boys on their team to see the girls there, watching them do all the same things they’re doing, have to rely on them, encourage them, and respect them. These are their peers. They will ALWAYS be their peers. These boys will be their school mates, their co workers, their friends, and their partners. They should know, starting right now, that girls are not less than. The more girls they see doing all the same things they do, just as well as they do them, the more likely it will be that they naturally see them as equals.

3. Confidence
It’s such an amazing feeling to accomplish something new. The girls are trying new things and achieving new goals standing next to little boys like it’s nothing out of the ordinary. As they grow, they’ll feel comfortable enough to jump in with the “big boys” whenever it’s necessary or just whenever they want to! I don’t want them to see males as obstacles and the best way to do that is to let them know, RIGHT NOW, that they are capable of all the same things. If they know, without a doubt, that there is nothing about being female that makes them less….there will be no stopping them.

4. The more experiences the merrier
I don’t enroll the girls in endless programs just to keep them busy because even though I thoroughly enjoy watching them, getting them to and from everything on time, around meals, and trying to keep the baby entertained is no easy task. But every single new experience has something to offer them. In only four weeks of basketball camp they’ve learned basketball terminology and some basic fundamentals. After only two weeks, Medina started dribbling balls without even thinking about it. As a basketball player, I do this. If there is a ball in my hand, I dribble it. It’s just something my body does like how someone holding a pen doodles. My Medina went from not knowing something to doing it without thinking. Her body will never forget this skill. It can only get better. In gymnastics they have become comfortable balancing and tumbling. They watch the big girls flipping around and now have that goal in mind so they work towards it- it isn’t scary when it’s familiar. Soccer has taught them how to maneuver with their feet and promotes self-discipline because, god knows, its hard for a newbie to just not touch the ball. Football will teach her how to work with others and that following directions is important. It will teach her how to get back up after falling down and that getting hurt (because even in flag football there’s lots of bumping into each other and passes to the face when you’re 5) doesn’t have to ruin an experience- It can even be worth it. When I was playing basketball, it was scoring on the really hard fouls and winning against the team that played so hard they hurt us that were the most satisfying. We would laugh and talk about our scratches and bruises the whole way home. It’s an experience. They won’t always win and it won’t always be worth it but sometimes it is-and that’s enough. There are no two sports that are exactly the same and every time they try a new one their muscles learn how to move in that specific way and never forget. It can get rusty and the quality or quickness may fade but it’s always there in the background and I’m trying to fill up their muscle memory bank with as much variety as possible!

 

 

I’d also like to mention that this applies to boys too. There are very few boys in gymnastics, cheer, or dance. Why? Boys and girls are EQUALLY capable of learning new things and that’s all that sports require. The ability to learn. Not everyone will be great at everything but one’s ability to be great has nothing to do with their sex. It’s important to present kids with a variety of opportunities and see where their interests lie. Find out what sparks joy in their hearts and let them run with it.

Positive Parenting. Who knew?

Other than memes and online articles, I don’t do a lot of reading up on parenting styles or philosophies. I have to say, though, that I really enjoyed reading Positive Parenting: An essential guide. It took a few tries to get through, not because I wasn’t interested, but because spending my day with three little balls of energy and keeping up with everything else means the moment I sit still at the end of the night- I’m asleep. But I finally, very enthusiastically, started reading it for a fourth time and finished! So, here are a couple of my thoughts/reflections on the book along with small excerpts for those of you who’d like to read the book but probably won’t get around to it. I got you.

 

1. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my new parenting style could actually be categorized as Positive Parenting!
a. It’s not completely a coincidence. As I’ve been maneuvering through this new   approach of more patience and self control, I have been following every possible Facebook page that provides me with daily reminders of who and how I’d like to be because, let’s be honest, I take a few more peeks at Facebook during the day then I’d like to admit so I may as well use it for good! Since I started following a variety of positive meme and parenting pages, Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond came up as a suggestion and I followed it too. I love this page. I have loved almost every single article that they have shared and the creator of the page is the author of this book. So, she was promoting it and it peaked my interest so I ordered it along with a few of my homeschool books. The number one reason I feel like this style best suits me is because it requires constant introspection. It focuses on being who you want your children to be and that is truly my goal. To be their role model. If I want them to be kind, then I must be kind to them. If I want them to be respectful then I must respect them.

b. Positive parenting is not to be confused with permissive parenting. This is a very important distinction. Permissive parents give in to their kids demands, however unreasonable, or allow misbehavior without proper intervention. Positive parents address the reasons behind the behavior and provide unconditional love and support but stay firm in what they expect of their little ones. For example, if my child wants a toy at the store and, after I say no (and explain why- even briefly) she throws a tantrum, I take a moment to realize that she’s having a hard time with her emotions and give her a hug and tell her I’m sorry that she’s sad about the toy….but she still doesn’t get the toy. One thing that I learned from the book is the fact that she doesn’t get the toy is enough. I don’t have to go back and talk about it and I have to refrain from lecturing her in the moment or asking her not to cry. I just have to be there for her and give her love- and stay firm on my position without rubbing it in her face and making it worse for her. That takes a lot of effort on my part. I SO want to revisit it and talk about the situation after we get home or before we go out again- but it’s unnecessary.

 

2. My top three takeaways:

a. We have to change the way we think about our children. If you really think about it, our language surrounding children is mostly negative. We talk about them like they’re these little nuisances that we have to deal with. Sometimes before a kid is anywhere near 2 years old, people start saying things like “omg they’ve already started their terrible twos” then there is “threenager” and “fearsome fours”. I’ve heard friends call their kids “a-holes” and “sh** disturbers” among other things. Why? Where did this come from? I’m guilty of this too and it really hit me like a ton of bricks to think about how it just crept in without me realizing. It’s just a regular parenting thing to do now but I hate it. I don’t want that. I adore my children and I want to give them the respect they deserve. Just like anything else, if we change our way of thinking we are able to change our approach. Excerpt: Unfortunately, the way children are viewed in our culture has caused us to relate to them poorly. We perceive attention seeking where there is only a desire to connect, clinginess where there is only a motive for love, disobedience where there is only a will to learn, and defiance where there is only a need to grow. We view them as manipulative, conniving, and selfish, and we base our interactions with them on those views.

 

b. Kids are not manipulative. Duh, right? But again, think about it. We have these amazing tiny beings who we love and cuddle and care for but very early on, from one day to the next, we are convinced that they are manipulating us into doing things for them. We are told not to rock them to sleep or hold them when they cry. We are conditioned to see their instinctual behaviors as a way for them to control our lives and we do all that we can to stop it before it begins. That’s INSANE! Again, I couldn’t even believe that I fell for this. My poor first born came into this world fighting all my preconceived notions. My poor baby probably didn’t feel loved in the way I wanted her to feel loved because I was trying to control her emotions for her. It isn’t something I enjoy thinking about but it’s important that I do…which brings me to final takeaway….

 

c. In order to be good parents we need to heal our pasts. It’s extremely important that we understand our own (and our spouse’s) feelings and reactions and how deeply they are rooted in us. This book provides discussion questions at the end of each chapter that I really appreciated. Full disclosure: My husband and I didn’t do them together like we were supposed to but we have been together a while and have had more than many parenting discussion so there were no questions I felt we hadn’t already discussed to some degree. Nonetheless, I do still plan on going back and touching base with them at some point in the near future because things can change.

Sample questions:
   1) Do you feel the pressure for your children to behave like adults, especially in public? Does their childish behavior embarrass you? Is it their behavior or your expectation that is really the problem?
2) How do you speak about your children to others in front of them? Are your words uplifting or crushing?
3) Will you commit to looking for and pointing out the goodness of those you love?

What Positive Parenting comes down to is, taa- daa, the positivity. We have to think of our children in a positive light. We need to surround ourselves with positive people who will encourage and support us with positivity. We need to flip our negative language into positive language. Life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies and we all know that there are times on our low days that we’d like to just throw our hands up to the heavens and give up- but we can’t. So we may as well try our hardest! We may as well take it one day at a time and muster up all the positive energy we have to create, through practice and consistency, a truly positive being within us for the sake of our little ones. It probably won’t happen in one day and there will DEFINITELY be setbacks. But if every morning we wake up with intention of just one day of positivity, one day will turn to many days before we know it. Many days will turn to a year and a year will then turn into their childhood….and isn’t that what we really want?