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…..

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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.