Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

Planes, Trains and Tea Parties!

When I found out I was expecting a baby girl, I remember worrying that my husband would be disappointed that we were not having a little boy. After all, don’t all men dream of having a son, a mini-me, that they can play and share experiences with? He assured me that he wasn’t disappointed at all, he was actually happy.  He explained it would be like watching me grow up and he was excited to see who our little girl would become. Ironically, Maddy is indeed a mini-me of my husband and for better or worse (mostly better!), she looks and acts just like him.

The importance of father-daughter relationships.

As someone who loves them both, it has been fun to watch their relationship as father and daughter evolve. From having his toenails painted, to tea parties, to mastering the art of the pony tail, my husband has embraced his relationship with our daughter. He wants to know what she likes and do the things that interest her. But he has also shared his likes and interests with her and she has equally embraced them. As a toddler she loved playing with cars and trains and learning all about them. As a preschooler she loves learning about space and building doll houses from materials around the house. All things her Daddy loves and experiences she has shared with him. And that has been the key: all of their activities have been experiences they have shared together and time they have spent learning about each other.

As a mom I often think of myself as the primary caregiver and for our family that is mostly true. But I also recognize how important it is for my daughter to create her own unique connection with her dad. One evening a week my husband and daughter have what we call “Maddy Daddy Date Night.” I must admit, it was initially conceived because I worked one evening a week, but it has become a beloved ritual for them both. Each week, Maddy can’t wait for her “date night” with her Daddy and the feeling is mutual. My hope for them both is that their date nights continue long after the necessity fades. I am myself a self proclaimed “Daddy’s girl.” As a child and as an adult my relationship with each of my parents is very different, but equally cherished.  I wish the same for my daughter.

What’s (on) your sign? Supporting children’s self-esteem

When my 5-year-old daughter Maddy is upset with me, along with the expected tears and pouting, she frequently announces to me that I am “hurting her heart.” You might think I’m a terrible mother, but when I hear this response from her I have to admit that I laugh a little bit. Not because I am insensitive, but because it feels to me like she’s overreacting. Or is she?

Photo courtesy of Jonas Seaman.

Photo courtesy of Jonas Seaman.

As an elementary education student in college, I remember a lecture from a professor who talked about thinking of your students walking into your classroom each day with an invisible sign with their name on it that represents their self-esteem. He asked if during the school day were we helping our students keep their sign intact or unknowingly helping to rip their sign apart, piece by piece. In fact, he said some students might enter our classrooms with their sign already ripped and torn. Were we helping to piece their sign back together through our interactions with them, or were we continuing the work that somebody else had started?

As parents we all have wish lists for our children: to be kind, smart, polite, etc. But I believe the most important wish we can have for our children is that they learn to love and value themselves. I imagine Maddy’s sign: probably pink and purple all over with lots of glitter and definitely a unicorn or two added. She is usually a very self-confident young girl but I wonder, would the edges of her sign be frayed and torn from something I have said or done? Instead of simply laughing to myself when she tells me I am hurting her heart, maybe I should listen. Even if it doesn’t change the way I discipline, I should be helping her to put her sign back together, not take it apart.


A Walk in my Daughter’s Shoes

“You never really know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”

There are as many translations of this saying as there are variations of it. A few days ago, my daughter invited me to join her for a walk in the woods, and it took on a whole new meaning for me.  One-on-one time with my two children is rare.  When her younger brother fell asleep late in the afternoon, Liv seized the chance to have her mommy to herself and to give me a glimpse of the woods from her perspective.

As we set out, I was amazed by how agile and lithe my daughter is. Watching her spindly legs trek down the steep path in girly girl shorts and UGG boots, it really hit me that she’s not a baby anymore. Though eight, she’s the size of a six-year-old and doesn’t look like she’d be strong enough to climb the steep, slippery embankments, but girlfriend left me in the dust. When I told her I needed to find a good walking stick for myself, her response was comical, especially since it was delivered in that “Uh, really” tone of voice she’s developed lately. “Did you always need a stick? I mean when you were younger?” I wanted to say, “No, I just started needing one since I entered my dotage.”

Once I’d finally slipped and slid my way to the playhouse, Liv gave me the grand tour. It consisted of the entrance ramp, a cozy corner filled with collections, an alarm system, a spot for star gazing, and get this – a zip line! Liv proudly pointed out each of these features and provided warnings, descriptions and demonstrations.

“Here’s the ramp up. Use your stick, Mommy!” (Talk about feeling geriatric). “This is the cozy corner where you can relax or read a book,” then “Check out our worms. We made a natural habitat for them by putting dirt in a kitty litter jug and leaving the lid unscrewed. And here’s a cool animal skull!” By this point, I’m thinking, Seriously? and could barely choke out an, “I see.” But I wasn’t about to touch!

Next she sounded the alarm by banging a stick against a rusted canister – “Just in case there’s an emergency and we need to alert the adults.” With the grace of a deer, she leaped from the playhouse to the stargazing deck and lay down on her back gazing up into the sky as if she could envision it full of stars. Before I could get a “Be careful!” out, she’d grabbed a rope and used it to propel herself between the two trees they’d ingeniously strung it between.

Heading back, I watched in awe as my beautiful, brave, child crossed the creek that led home. Somehow, she looked different to me. Maybe that’s because I’d learned some things about her. Like that she’s fearless, resourceful and more intelligent than I’d suspected. Things I think she’s known for a while. And wanted me to realize, too.

Walking in my daughter’s shoes and seeing the woods through her eyes, I shifted my thinking about them. And her. She doesn’t seem like a fragile porcelain baby doll any more, and I think that’s a good thing.

– Tammi

Photo courtesy of Rob Patrick.

Remarkable Moms

This past Sunday I sat glued to the television as Diane Sawyer interviewed Jaycee Lee Dugard. This remarkable woman and her mother shared their stories and I hoped that others would be as touched as I was by not only what they had endured, but how a mother’s love endures.

Throughout the interview, Jaycee shared that it was often the memory of her mother and the hope of seeing her again that helped her persevere. She talked about remembering the love she felt from her mom and the closeness of their relationship. She talked about how she saw her mom in the eyes and faces of her own children which helped her to love them, even though they were the result of the incredible abuse she endured. As a teen mom with little to no support from the couple that had abducted her, Jaycee focused on being a good mother to her own children. Using television shows and memories of her own upbringing as a guide, she went about the task of raising her children.

Jaycee’s mother continued to search for Jaycee, never giving up hope, believing that Jaycee was “out there somewhere.” During the interview, Jaycee’s mother shared the agony she endured and the guilt she had for not being able to keep her daughter safe. Amidst the relief and happiness she has felt since her daughter’s return there has been anger, too, toward the people who took so much away from her and Jaycee. Through the anger however, Jaycee’s mother’s eyes sparkled as she talked about her granddaughters and how much she cares for them. Jaycee reported that she feared her mother would reject her children due to their connection to her abductor, but it is clear that the love Jaycee remembers from her childhood endures and that her mother’s love extends to her own children.

In an odd way, I think Jaycee, her mother and her daughters are lucky. They have a connection, unconditional love that is real and understood. How many of us have the love of a mother that we know would endure? How many of us make sure to establish a connection with our own children that cannot be broken? At the end of the interview Diane Sawyer asked Jaycee if she had a message to send to her abductor, and she responded by saying that he may have taken a lot from her, but he couldn’t touch the memories and the connection she has with her mother.

Obviously what Jaycee and her mother endured is incredible and traumatic. And though what I know of them is only what was aired on the television, I do think that they send a powerful message and challenge to all of us: no matter how busy we are or how much our kids annoy us, we must ensure that they know the extent of our support and love.

– Carolyn