Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


My Child Is Not Me!

mother-sonI’ve been a mommy since 2006, and before my angel was born I had all these grand ideas and plans of how I would be as a mom and how he would be as my son. I thought we would be doing a lot of laughing, reading, riding bikes, visiting the museum, zoos, amusement parks, you name it—but boy was I wrong. I did not expect and anticipate my kid not liking any of those things. I mean NOTHING. So instead of crying, being sad and pouting I had to come up with ideas that would entice or interest him in a different way. I didn’t take into consideration that he may have just been fed up or burnt out because schools and summer camps take him to most of these outings. So how do you get your kid interested in hanging out with mom?

First, I always check in with my son. I have always formed a bond and a relationship with him so that he knows he can tell me anything whether I would be upset or not. I wanted to develop his trust but at the same time remind him that I can be his friend but I still have to parent.

Second, I talk with his friends to see what his interests are. Sometimes our children tell the parent one thing and his friends something else. I’ve figured from talking to his friends that some things of interest to my son he may deem embarrassing or feel like I would think it’s stupid or that I just wouldn’t get it.

Third, I am personable. I like to check in with my son to let him know that mommy was not always an adult and to let him know the things that I did as a child. Because of the power of the internet and ebay, I can pull up old TV shows, cartoons and toys.

All in all as a parent I had to learn that my child is just an extension of me, not a replica. So instead of being disappointed, losing interest or giving up on bonding and hanging out with your child, think about what interests you have and adapt to involving yourself with what your kids like and are involved in. I have now been introduced to worlds that I didn’t know existed such as Comic-Con, playing and beating him in laser tag, learning to play video games and actually participating in gaming forums.

Hopefully you too can follow this TIP, (Trust, Interest, and Personable) on your journey to maintaining a bond with your child.


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What I Learned When I Returned to Work

boys being sillyYears ago, after a failed attempt to negotiate a work from home deal with my job, our child care provider resigning to raise a family of her own, and many evenings spent discussing future plans and expenses with my husband, this second time mom-to-be made the decision to leave the professional world behind for awhile and take on a new title as stay-at-home mom.

The decision was both exciting and scary. It had always been a desire of mine to stay home with my children during their early years and to have the opportunity to make it a reality was a gift. The troublesome part wasn’t the overwhelming amount of physical and emotional energy that comes with being a constant caregiver for small children, that realization came later, the cons on my list were concerns of lost time building professional work experience.

I had only just begun building a career and wondered what it would be like re-entering that world after years of absence. Still, the pros of being there for all the moments of my children’s first years of life outweighed the cons and I happily accepted my new title as stay-at-home mom.

I enjoyed (and cursed, on the particularly tiresome days) that title for 6 years; I even expanded my team and went from managing two to three with the birth of our third child.  But the time had come for me to make my comeback into the workforce and face the many challenges that came along with that.

  1. Resume and References

I remember looking at my resume and wondering if I could add household CEO and list teacher, nurse, chef, housekeeper, event planner as titles to describe the work I had been most recently performing. I joked with my friends that I was going to add the children as references and attach their drawings and “world’s best mommy” notes as reference letters.  Seriously though when I left the working world Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn were not popular yet so maintaining a connection to past co-workers wasn’t easy. Luckily I managed to reconnect with a few former colleagues to use as references and I refreshed my resume making sure to be straightforward about the reason for the gap in time.

  1. Interviews

I got a call for an interview very quickly after submitting my resume and enthusiastically agreed to meet the next day. It had been many years since I had been on an interview and made a classic mom mistake by being so concerned with the children’s needs that I left no time for myself to prepare. I hadn’t thought about my professional experiences in years and couldn’t for the life of me come up with any examples. At that moment my mind was filled with the crying 3-year-old I just left and whether or not I had told grandma what time to the get the 1st-grader off the bus. Needless to say the interview did go that well. I chalked it up as a learning experience and made sure to give myself some prep time for the next interview. My sister even helped me prepare by doing a mock interview with me.  The next couple of interviews went very well and it wasn’t long before I was back to work.

  1. Emotional Adjustment

For years I played a major role in my children’s daily lives.  Even when the oldest was in school, I was there to get her off the bus and hear about her day. Going back to work meant finding new ways to keep that connection strong and it took some getting used to.

  1. Feeling Left Behind

Once you get hired and start back down the career path it’s tough to resist the urge to compare yourself to others who have gained valuable professional experience while you were at home raising a family.  At times I’ve felt frustrated when others talk about opportunities they’ve had and I’ve felt a pang of regret thinking about how much fuller my resume could be if I had made a different choice.  But ultimately I know I made the right choice for me and I am thankful for the valuable experiences I had, even if they could never be explained on a resume.


Rocking My Babies to Sleep

Family

Welcome Staci Hemlinger, 4C for Children professional development specialist, to the 4C blog team for 2016!

Hello all! My name is Staci and I am a mother of four. Breathe—I know, four! My oldest, Emily, is 11, Michael is 10, Natalie is 7 and Olivia is only 2. It is an amazing world of never-ending something’s-to-do. Just when I think I can sit, my full-time job, husband or children say different—and I love it!

Just this morning as Olivia made her way into our bed with her blankie saying, “Miss you Mommie!” I quickly pulled her up next to me and cuddled her close, paying attention to the smell of her baby lotion that had worn off over night. I know this because like so many mothers before me, I rock my babies to sleep. She is my last “baby” I will have and I am proud to say, I rocked them all.

Starting with Emily, I received a lot of backlash from my in-laws and other friends about rocking our babies to sleep. “They will never learn to sleep on their own,” or, “You are spoiling them!” If I only had a dollar for all of the times I would hear them say, “Just lay them down and let them cry!” My mother seemed to be a voice of reason when she said, “Do what your heart needs you to do.” Maybe it’s just what I needed to hear because it confirmed my feelings. When it was time for all of my babies to go to sleep I wanted to hold them and cuddle them, smell their newly washed hair and cuddle their cute little pajama bodies until I would lay them in bed, thanking the heavens above that I had that time with them and only wish for another to follow. But it wasn’t always sweet smells and cuddles! Sometimes my babies would fight like little devils and want down to play and the night would be filled with yelling and grumpiness. My husband would raise his brow as if to say, “If you just would’ve laid them down in the beginning, none of this would be an issue now.” Right away without saying a thing I would look away, accept the situation that I had created, and deal with my little devils that would soon be sleeping angels and hope that the next night would be easier.

Life gets away from us so quickly and getting to rock my babies to sleep at night solidified a way for me to bond and to take one last minute of serenity. The seconds that I would regret making the decision to rock my babies to sleep came nowhere near my lifetime of memories getting my sweet unforgettable cuddles in.


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Report Cards for Parents?

Have you ever thought to ask your child to grade you as a mom or dad?

I learned about this phenomenon recently, but wasn’t sure I wanted to ask my children how I was performing as a mom. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. What parent would want to be that vulnerable?

But then I thought about it some more.  As an employee, I am evaluated by my supervisor. It is always helpful to hear from others what my strengths are, and also where there is room for improvement.  What was I afraid of discovering about myself as a mom?

So, holding my breath and gulping with courage, I asked my boys to evaluate my performance as a mom. I explained to them that I wanted to improve my parenting skills, and that I wanted them to be completely honest and that there would be no repercussions.  I also asked them if we could talk about my grades later.

I thought they would not want to do it but they gladly accepted the challenge.

Based on the results of my “report card,” I discovered that my kids really are watching me.  I got good grades in a few areas: my kids felt safe and protected, I offered healthy food choices and I was interested in their dreams.

Of course, there was need for improvement, too. They want me to lead by example, spend quality time with each of them individually, reward them for doing chores and to stop texting and driving.

Jansen and I had a great talk after I got my report card, and we’re making some changes. But while my older son Jared eagerly graded me, he was unwilling to talk about it afterwards. His reasoning was that it was too late as he is an adult now and it doesn’t matter. As a mom that hurt a bit, but it’s because in a way I know it’s true. I wish I could wind the clock back for Jared to when he was little again and do things differently.  I know that of all my children, I failed giving enough time and attention to him.  He wasn’t deprived but he was the middle child, sandwiched between two siblings.

But I can’t change the past. I can only try to do better now. Jansen agreed to evaluate me again in three months, and I’ll be curious to see if I can bring my grade up.


Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

I am typically one of those people who professes a love for all seasons. I find things in each season that brings me joy: sitting poolside, watching football, walks in the snow, gardening.

But this winter has been very different for me, and I have been feeling a bit unmotivated. Which puzzles me – is it that we haven’t had enough snow? Is it a lack of sunshine? Is it being stuck more indoors?

Whatever the cause, I have spent more time on my couch than I typically do. And though I have found joy sitting in my comfy clothes under a blanket watching movies, I have felt a little selfish. There are many tasks on my list to accomplish this winter. You know the list – the one with cleaning out the clutter and making ready for spring. But my biggest accomplishment this winter? Watching all three Lord of the Rings movies!

So, where does this feeling of selfishness come from? If I am finding joy in cocooning indoors, why do I let the thoughts of what I “should” be doing creep into my mind? I think it comes from two places. One is that I’ve always measured success by what I have done. The other is a place of negative feelings associated with being selfish.

I have noticed that the men in my life do not have the same angst about doing what they want. They tend to assess their level of energy, weigh their options and make a choice. Yet I, like many women I know, consider the needs and desires of others when I make decisions. I think to myself, I can’t just sit here, there are so many things I should be doing. But do I really believe that cleaning out the closet is more meaningful than paying attention to what my body and heart want to do?

Of course not. My well-being is very much connected to how I take care of myself. There have definitely been times in my life that I have ignored what my heart and body needed, and those times have taught me to be much more in-tune with the messages I am receiving. Sometimes my body lets me know when it needs more rest, or I get the urge to be creative. Other times I recognize that I need some quiet time to turn off my mind, or the laughter of friends.

The trick is to ignore the tendency to describe taking care of myself as selfish. If I frame my current desires to create a cocoon as taking care of myself, then I am more apt to give myself what I need. Mothers of daughters, this one is for you, too. Your self-care encourages them to give their own needs as much attention as the needs of others, to value their own feelings in the same ways we teach them to value others’ feelings.

 


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Motherhood: Be Prepared

It was the Saturday before Christmas and like most everybody else, my daughter and I were at the mall. We had our trip all mapped out: lunch in the food court (according to my daughter, they have the best pizza), Build-a-Bear for a gift for her BFF and then a visit to Santa. I knew it might be crowded but we were prepared. We were going to take our time and enjoy our girl’s day out.

And then things went terribly wrong.

We had finished lunch and had just walked into Build-a-Bear when the fire alarms in the mall starting going off and the lights began flashing. At first I really wasn’t that worried. I assumed it was a false alarm and we continued shopping. Then a clerk from the store approached me and told me we had to evacuate the store. Ok, no problem. I still wasn’t concerned.

But as we left the store and entered the mall, I panicked. People were screaming as they ran toward the exits. I quickly grabbed my daughter’s hand and we began running with the crowd. She kept asking me what was wrong and telling me she was scared. I told her just to keep holding my hand and I would keep her safe.

As we entered Macy’s to exit the mall, the gate to Macy’s closed behind us. We made it outside and started walking the distance to our car. As we approached our truck we encountered a woman who looked both terrified and confused. I asked her if she knew what had happened. She said she had been in Macy’s and that there was a shooter and then a loud explosion. I didn’t wait to hear any more details; we got in our car and got out of there.

Later that day we learned there hadn’t been a shooter at the mall, but there had been an explosion:

A tank had exploded in the food court and from there, panick ensued. I explained to my daughter what had really happened and tried to calm her fears. She said she was never going back to the mall (that actually made my husband happy) and then began asking all kinds of questions about fire and fire safety in our home. She became obsessed with making sure the Christmas tree lights were off anytime we weren’t in the family room.

We have had many conversations about fire safety since then and I think she might even be ready to go back to the mall. But me, I’m not so sure. I honestly don’t remember every being so scared and feeling so helpless. Keeping me safe is one thing, protecting my daughter is on a whole other level. In retrospect, I am pretty confident I overreacted and probably did my daughter more harm than good. But I don’t really know that I would do anything differently if I had to re-live the experience.

Before you have children you think you understand how much you will love your child but you can’t really know the depth of that love until you hold them for that first time. Your whole world changes. You will run like a crazy woman through the mall holding your child’s hand without even knowing why. You just will.


A Mom in Motion

This time last year, I was in the worst physical condition of my life. I’d had surgery in October and was supposed to be on medical leave for six weeks. Instead it was nine. Then I had a second surgery. And a third. Needless to say, recovery took quite a while, even with physical therapy and ongoing lifting restrictions. I felt like an alien had invaded my body. Day in and day out, I complained to my patient husband about what  terrible shape I was in. Finally, he told me very lovingly to either stop complaining or do something about it.

 

Determined to get healthy, a few weeks ago I stopped using a full-time job, grad school, my children’s homework and any other excuse I could think of not to exercise and  increased my on-again, off-again once a week Zumba to three to four times a week consistently. As an asthmatic, at first I couldn’t make it through the first few songs of the dance session without stopping for huge puffs on my inhaler. And the pain was killer! Not only did my chest hurt from being winded, every muscle in my body screamed for me to quit during each session and then whispered aching reminders of the work out long afterward. Still I persisted. No pain, no gain, right? Right! Gradually as I build up my stamina, I now find these breaks are fewer and farther between and instead of my body protesting when I work out, it does so when I don’t.

This was the case a few weekends ago when I couldn’t attend my Saturday class. Rather than feeling sluggish as I had for months, I had energy to burn. So instead of watching my nine and eleven-year-olds play laser tag, I suited up and joined them. Levi’s mask prevented me from seeing his reaction when I scored several points off of him by chasing him up and down ramps, but his, I’ve never seen mom do that! response conveyed his shock. And Liv had the same reaction when she joined me for Zumba the other night and realized her mom really dances. Hard.  In fact, she offered me my inhaler a few times between songs! I don’t know which I enjoyed more – her surprise that I didn’t need the inhaler or that I never stopped moving!

My quest for a healthier lifestyle has enabled me to model this for my children. Being involved in sports, exercising or simply being active isn’t limited to childhood, but I think my children saw me as too old to run or dance. Because other than taking the occasional walk, swimming or doing water sports like tubing or jet skiing on vacation, they’d never seen me do anything physical. They probably thought I was past all that.

Now that I’ve demonstrated how being fit allows me to run fast and dance hard, hopefully they’ve learned a lesson that they’ll carry into and throughout their adulthood: A mom (or dad) in motion tends to stay in motion.