Why I’m jumping on the “No more toys” bandwagon

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts lately about parents asking people to stop giving their kids toys and I can’t tell you how excited that makes me! I am ALL over this trend and this is why…

 

You are enough.

 

I know and wholeheartedly appreciate that your gift giving comes from a place a love and kindness but please know that it is unnecessary. You really are enough. My kids get excited about hosting parties. They’ll spend all morning singing about the people who are coming, cleaning up their toys, and picking out pretty outfits to wear. They have no idea that presents are coming and they couldn’t care less.

I had a cousin come over recently and she called ahead of time asking me if there was anything in particular she could get the girls. I told her “no.” “seriously.” I said. “This is not me being polite. PLEASE don’t get them anything” but she rarely gets to see my kids and really wanted to come with something for them to be excited about. I absolutely love that. I love that my family and friends want to bond with my kids but the better way to do that, as I told her, is to actually take a little time to bond with them. Toys are a distraction from you anyway. If you walk in with a toy the kids open it and disappear for a while. Instead, bring something to do with them. I asked my cousin to bring some nail polish. Sit down with them and paint their nails and they’ll remember that time with you so much more than if you walk in and give them a bag. They’ll love presents, I’m sure! Who doesn’t? But there is so much more value in spending time with them. Just sit down and ask them about their activities. Talk to them about their favorite colors. Ask them about their artwork- and really be engaged in this little conversation. If you’ve gone on a trip lately bring some pictures and talk to them about it. Push them on the swings out back or play a game of tag. Literally anything that requires 5 minutes of your full attention and time is what makes them happy and creates a long lasting impression.

Even on birthdays- You are enough. We throw parties at places that entertain the children. We get them pizza and ice cream- ALL of their favorite things have been covered. All they want is to play with their friends and have all the attention on them for the day. You can choose to contribute to their college or travel funds, purchase a fun membership for them, or donate in their name- all are acceptable and appreciated options but still not necessary. Your time is precious and we are happy to have had you and your time for a short while. If you have been invited then you have a place in our lives and we appreciate you. We want to see you and are grateful for your company.

 

I’m really not a mean mom. Sameer isn’t a mean dad. We don’t want our kids to be disappointed but that’s the whole point- they WON’T be! At the end of the day they never talk about the toys. They talk about the fun they’ve had. They immediately start planning their next birthday party. Those are the things that matter to them. Those are the things that I want to matter to them. I want them to grow up appreciating people not things. It is important to me that they value relationships and experiences. I want them to be able to see beyond the sparkly things and see the people behind them. I want them to know the difference between someone who loves them and someone who buys them the best things. I don’t want them to just accumulate things that have little value to them. I believe everything in our lives should either give us joy or add value to our lives (a little something I learned from The Minimalists) and toys just don’t do that. So, thank you for wanting to be kind to my kids (or, at the very least, trying to be polite) but please know, without a doubt, that you are enough for this family. Next time you make your way out to hang with the Khans- come empty handed. We prefer you that way.

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Honesty is the best policy

Those of you that know me well know that I had a complicated childhood. There were many unanswered questions that I had to deal with on my own that caused a lot of confusion for me. As I grew up I was able to piece a lot of it together on my own but during that process it became obvious to me that being open and honest with kids is important. I am so grateful for having that realization at a young age because it caused me to unknowingly avoid an issue that many families deal with now. It was only a couple years ago after someone asked me how I get my girls to listen well that I took the time to figure out what it was that I was doing well this time that caused this strength in our relationship. I was able to pinpoint the fact that it comes down to honesty and transparency.

Someone recently asked me again what it is I do with the girls to get them to listen well (or, more specifically, to get them to stop asking for the same thing over and over again without getting mad at them) and what they could do to apply it to their family…and this is what I came up with:

Simply put: The reason kids ask for that lollipop (or whatever) ten thousand times in 5 minutes is because they’re actually trying to keep it on their own mind. In the past, they’ve learned, that if they forget- you forget. So you have to prove to them that, if you say yes, you mean it! It’s so easy in the busy life of a parent to just move past something when your child forgets about it but, the truth is, that makes what you said a lie. If you said “you can have a lollipop after dinner” then it is extremely important that you have that lollipop out and ready to go after dinner without them asking again. If they ask again, you’re proving to them that you need another reminder. Instead, prove to them you don’t.

If they trust that you will follow through without them having to provide reminder, they’ll let it go! But trust takes time so if they’re already conditioned to remind you a million times then it’s going to take a while of consistent reconditioning.

To do this well, both parents (and anyone else in the household) have to stick to what they say at all times! If you say “you’ll get a bubble bath tomorrow.” Do it. Even if you really don’t want to and you think they’ve forgotten…do it because you said you would. It’s also just a really helpful reminder to be careful with your words. For some people this is possibly an entire lifestyle change–and that’s ok! Being careful with words doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Just be aware. Don’t make promises you can’t keep- and a promise is anything you say you will do with certainty. You don’t necessarily have to use the words “I promise” for a promise to be made. Saying things like “yeah, we can go to chuck e cheese tomorrow” when you know very well that’s not possible is setting you all up for failure. It’s better to deal with a little disappointment right when a question is asked by, instead, saying “no we can’t go to Chuck E Cheese tomorrow because we have a busy day. Maybe next week on Monday or Tuesday” be specific so they give you until the time you said but, come Monday, YOU be the one to bring it up. Don’t let them be the one to ask again.* Being honest with your children has a HUGE effect on their general behavior (posts coming soon on the importance of always being honest with little ones and situations you may not realize are testing honesty). When your child is fully confident that what you say is true they won’t have to verify it over and over again. Think about yourself as an adult…when you’re not sure someone will do something that they said they would (likely because they’ve proven to be forgetful or flakey in the past) you probably feel the need to ask them about it more than once, right? Same thing, except kids don’t have our self consciousness so they don’t care if they annoy you. They just want what they want so they won’t stop at asking once….or twice…or…..you get the idea.

A major key to this, though, is that everyone in the home and who has regular contact with the child is on board! Kids are not be able to differentiate one family member’s forgetfulness with another…all they know is that they forgot to bring it up again and they didn’t get what they were promised (or they did bring it up and it still wasn’t enough) so, in their mind, next time they can’t forget about it. Not even for one second if it’s really important or exciting to them. And how do they remember? By saying it out loud. Over and over and……

 

*If your child is too young to know days of the week you can get them a fun calendar to show them dates and have them draw a shape or put a sticker on the days you said you’d revisit the subject… or expect their question to change from “can we go TODAY??” to “is it Monday yet?”

 

Hot tea? What’s that?

This morning I woke up with a terrible headache. I decided to get up a little earlier than the girls and have a cup of tea in peace before the day started. I was super excited. I’ve been going to bed late recently which means I’ve been waking up after the girls come to get me up and that really throws off my morning. Anyway, I got up….didn’t even use the bathroom or brush my teeth because I didn’t want to take the chance of the girls hearing the running water and waking up. Gross, I know. But worth it…..when it works. Today, however, it didn’t. I put the tea kettle on, used the downstairs bathroom to rinse and wash my face, then went back upstairs to grab a bucket to get my cleaning supplies ready for the day. On my way back down I got to the stairs when Medina (5) came out of her room to tell me that her legs hurt. I sat with her for a few minutes to talk to her about the pain and see how serious it was. She was fine. I told her to come down with me but she wanted to grab something from her room. So I made it down to the bottom step when she AND Amaya (3) come out of their room and they scream to me (because I was soooo far away) ” CAN WE CHECK ON LANA?!?” before I could even say anything, Lana (1) started calling for them. ” TAAA- TAAAA” – that’s what she calls her sisters. So, I put the bucket down and headed back up. We all go into Lana’s room and knew, immediately, that she had pooped. When I picked her up I could feel that her pants were a little wet. I was hoping it was because her new favorite thing to do is to turn her bottle over and make puddles everywhere…but either way, I decided to put her in a quick bath. While she was bathing, Medina decided to go downstairs to poop….and is politely (and repeatedly) calling me “MOOOOOOMMMMYYYYY please come washhhhhhh meeeee” SO I get Lana out of the bath and throw a diaper on her then run downstairs to clean Medina up. While I’m downstairs, Amaya poops upstairs (HOW they all got on to the exact same pooping schedule is BEYOND me!). So, again (repeatedly), “MOOOOOMMMYYYYYYY I did poooooooooo-pooooooooo”. Up I go! I get Amaya cleaned up and go back to Lana’s room where I left her playing with a puzzle and tried to wrangle her down to get her dressed. She tried to escape, bumped her head on the wall- and started screaming. While she’s screaming Amaya is calling from the bathroom “MOOOOOMMMMMYYYYYYYY can you help me with my toothpaste please…its stuuuuckkkk”. I pick Lana up and go to the bathroom and get toothpaste on both Amaya and Medina’s toothbrushes and set the brushing timer for them. Lana still fussing in my arms, I finally make it down stairs and get breakfast ready. The girls come down, brushed and changed and ready for me to make their hair. I made their hair and sat them down in front of an episode of Wild Kratts- we’re going to count that as their science lesson for the day- and gave Lana a baby food pouch.

So here I am…..an hour later, chugging cool tea, with unbrushed teeth and a headache….Lana (and the floor around her) covered in baby food, ready for bath #2 of 4 of the day and all I can do is laugh….and twitch…like an insane unkempt lady. And that’s the story of 6-7am today.

Becoming the parent I want to be: What is this blog about, anyway?

I am a self aware, self evaluating, always anxious, evolving, mad woman who is in constant pursuit of peace. Peace for myself, for my family and for everyone out there in the world around me. I’m not a fan of the struggles and turmoil that are generally assumed to be a part of life. I believe that there is always a way for me to change something about the way I approach life in order to better the lives of those around me. It is because of this that I am always re evaluating my entire life. It is because of my constant evaluation that I am able to have these epiphanies that, sometimes, completely redirect my course of life. I find this to be my biggest asset on my journey through motherhood. Being able to see a problem, pinpoint it, and find my role in it allows me to alter very specific behaviors to try to eliminate the problem all together. It usually works, but it sometimes doesn’t and I have to start over again. Over the years, my parenting approach has gone from a strict, let the baby self soothe and get over it approach (which got the job done but didn’t feel right in my heart) to more of a comforting, loving, positive parenting approach that I am in love with.

Every parent has to do what feels right within their soul but I’m learning, the more and more I talk to my mommy friends, that not everyone knows how to find what feels right. So many parents go through this journey just taking in what they’re being told about how to “handle” their kids, how to “discipline” them, and how to get them to “obey” in order to have good kids and house that runs smoothly. The fact of the matter is though, so many of the parents who do these things don’t feel like their home runs smoothly at all or that their kids listen well and do what their told. I’m convinced this is because all this firmness and the constant push to drive our children goes against our natural instincts as parents. We were meant to love our children beyond reason (NOT to be confused with spoiling or being permissive, by the way). We were meant to calm, comfort, and teach them at every opportunity without condition but over the years this has been dulled. Over the years the importance has shifted from raising beautiful beings to having the best, smartest, most well behaved, most athletic, most submissive children around while also keeping the cleanest house, working the hardest, looking our best, cooking the best foods, throwing the best parties, being the most fun…..it’s too much. I would like to be a part of the movement that allows us to be kind and loving to our families first and above all else.

The point of this blog isn’t, at all, to tell others how to parent their children. The point is to tell my story: how I’ve been able to get my own anxiety under control, parenting mistakes my husband and I have made and how we have overcome them, and, in general, how or why I do what I do with my children. With the amazing people I have in my life, I have been encouraged to share my thoughts and processes because they think that I have something significant to offer and I hope they’re right! I truly hope hearing about my journey as a mother helps someone else feel more comfortable as they move along on theirs.

 

Some blog post topics to look forward to:

1. The details on how I got the pickiest eater in the world to try a new food every day for a year

2. How I taught my girls to happily only ask for something once

3. Getting the older siblings to love their baby sister without jealousy

If I’m being honest, It’s not them. It’s me.

People seem to generally think of me as a patient person. In the past, when I was complimented on my patience, it baffled me a little. The truth is, there have been many times over the years that I have lost my cool. Like, too many to count. Up until Medina was 3 I actually considered myself to be really quite impatient and I’m pretty sure my husband and siblings could attest to that. But I hated that about myself. It was always something I knew I needed to work on but it wasn’t until I had a complete melt down that I felt it was worth actively seeking out a solution that would work for me.

This isn’t a story that I’m particularly proud of but it’s a significant part of my journey. When Medina was 3 and Amaya (our second daughter) was almost 2 I was having a rough week. A really rough week. I was putting these girls in time outs multiple times a day. I was being challenged by them constantly. They were crying for EVERYTHING, it seemed. I was just over it. Then, something happened. Medina was in time out for the 3rd or 4th time of the day for whatever reason and was still managing to upset me. She was laughing in time out. LAUGHING. I had a rage of fire burning inside me and this kid was having fun? I was outraged. I yelled. I picked her up and put her, roughly, into a new time out spot far away from her sister so they would stop smiling at each other. She hurt her little butt when I put her down and started crying. I guess I was satisfied enough that she had stopped giggling and laughing and just outright mocking me in my face so I walked away. But I wasn’t really satisfied. I was miserable. I hurt her little butt. I know it was probably more her feelings that hurt than anything else but she was sad and it was my fault. I locked myself in my room and cried. Sobbed, actually. It wasn’t what I had imagined myself to be like as a mother. I really thought I’d be better and that my kids would listen to me because I was firm and clear. There was too much to sort through in my mind but there was no time for that right then because I had some apologizing to do. I gathered myself, got the girls together and just held them for minute. I took Medina’s face into my hands and told her I was so sorry. I let her know that I was having a really hard day and I didn’t mean to hurt her. Medina, at 3, was more forgiving than most adults I know and it only made me feel worse.

When Sameer got home he was already furiously text-briefed about my day and, thankfully, relieved me of the rest of my nightly routine so that I could spend some much needed time with my thoughts. This is what I came up with:

1.The whole week had been my fault:
2. My babies are a reflection of me.

I know that I had the conversation with a few people after I came to this realization because, even though it doesn’t seem like a very difficult concept, its hard to realize that its happening when you’re in the moment. Turns out I was going to have a bad week regardless of what the girls were doing. I am an anxious person by nature and that week had been particularly hard for me. Not them. They were the same amazing little people as always. I just had no patience for it and they were tired of my lack of patience for them. I mean, did I really have to yell at Amaya for taking too long to come down when she stopped to scratch her foot for 2 minutes on the stairs? Of course she’s going to cry! Her foot itched!

I realized that it is COMPLETELY up to me, as the adult, to model their behavior for the day. Simple enough, right? Actually, YES!

I went to bed thinking about my personal goals for the next day:

I will be patient
I will be kind
I will stay calm
I will be present

It worked. Kids are magical. It took one day. ONE DAY to change the way this entire household ran. I have since chosen to be patient with them every day and they return the favor. How did I expect them to just know how to be these wonderful little people without modeling the behavior myself? How does that even make sense? I have to teach them not to pee themselves but expect them to be the bigger person in this relationship sometimes? Never again. These girls will only be as kind as I am to them. That means working on myself everyday and if there is the occasional slip up, swallowing my pride and apologizing because it means something to them. Even when I don’t think they care for it, I apologize anyway because its important for them to know that I was wrong and want to be better. Not apologizing leaves them wondering if my bad behavior is normal sometimes- and I don’t want them to ever question how they should be treated. Sure, sometimes they will be disrespected or mistreated but I want them to KNOW deep down that it isn’t that they deserve it- but that all people are imperfect.

Today I can honestly say that I feel like a more patient person. I genuinely appreciate my little people and want to give them the respect they deserve. I want to treat them with infinite love and kindness every single day in the way people seemed to assume I already was…and so much more.

Every morning I write down my goals for the day. Obviously, I have them memorized by now but that’s not the point. Writing personal goals down on paper suddenly makes it part of the day’s To Do list. It has been over 2 years since we’ve had another day like my melt down day. They’ve gotten a time out here and there but I’ve more recently decided that I’m against time outs all together anyway (Sameer hasn’t been briefed on this particular development yet) but that’s another post for another day…..

A personal Journey

Parenting is hard- In case you didn’t know. Before having kids I, like most future parents, thought I had it all figured out. I wanted to be strict. My kids were NOT getting away with anything. I was going to slap a hand if needed and ignore those manipulating cries because I was smarter than that. My plan was set and my Husband, Sameer, and I agreed to it. We were going to have the most well-behaved and respectful children around. Done and done.

Nope. Turns out, having kids is very different than caring for kids, which I had done for many years. I have siblings up to 17 years younger than me that I helped with- A LOT. My eldest sister had her baby when I was 13 and I spent lots of time with her too. I worked at a day care right out of high school and worked with special needs kids when they were on the verge of being kicked out. I coached junior high and high school basketball for 7 years. I was a volunteer babysitter at special events. I then became a preschool teacher….the list really goes on and on but all of that preparation, while extremely  helpful, just wasn’t enough. It’s just not the same.

In 2012 our first daughter, Medina, was born. She was a week late and a 9 pound 2 ounce bundle of joy (although Sameer and I both remember the nurse yelling out 9 pound 3 ounces in the delivery room and I want credit for that last ounce!). Surprise number 1- she wasn’t quite as cute right out of the womb as we were expecting. I mean, she was a beautiful little miracle, but she didn’t make a great first impression. She was a hairy little swollen mess….but that’s really neither here nor there. The point is, the surprises started immediately.

Fast forward a few months and we had a walking, babbling, beautiful little 9 month old who got into EVERYTHING. Without hesitation, we stuck to our super strict parenting plan and started lightly slapping at her hand when she would touch things that weren’t meant for her. Well, it didn’t take very long before she started hitting us back. She’s 5 now but I remember it clearly. We were living with my in-laws at the time and were sitting in the family room. Medina went over to touch a glass ornament and Sameer tapped her hand and gave her a stern NO. Then he picked her up to walk away and she slapped him across the face. So, he grabbed her hand and, again, told her NO. aaaaand she slapped him again. Hard. Well….That isn’t a baby who is well behaved or respectful! Sameer and I just looked at each other and immediately we talked about how we didn’t think the hitting was working and that maybe it’s actually a bad idea in general. I mean, duh, but that’s all it took. We NEVER hit, or tapped, or physically disciplined her in any kind of way after that moment and Medina never felt the need to hit again either. It was funny to me how quickly that happened.

Now, I like to reflect. I really do. I like to sit down and think about my day. I like to take it all in- the good and the bad- and think about all the ways I can improve. I especially like to think about any negative moments or relationships and try to figure out my role in making it a negative situation. So, in this particular case, it wasn’t hard to figure out that we taught Medina how to hit. She had no concept of hitting until we did it to her. Our hitting her hand as a way to shape her behavior literally taught her nothing but how to hit. I didn’t know it at the time but that moment was the very beginning of my journey into the mother I am today. I would say that I am as close to the exact opposite of who I thought I would be as mother as possible. There are a few other significant moments over the past few years that I will post about that lead up to the recent realization of my parenting style and my overall new approach to life but there you have it: the very beginning of my journey into an entirely new person. Motherhood has done this for me. My deep desire for these girls to be happy, well adjusted, mindful, and compassionate has done this for me. Becoming a mother was planned but this part of the journey, the constant self evaluating and evolving, has been a beautiful and unexpected surprise.