Saturday, January 13, 2018

Lessons from a 5-year old

I have always said I get the best of both worlds being a teacher. I am essentially a stay-at-home mom in the summer, and a working mom during the school year. Is one harder or better? Definitely not. They are both challenging in their own rights and whatever choice women make is best for them and their family and not to the judged as it is not your life. Do I prefer one over the other? Definitely. I can say from staying at home much of the last year that it is not for me. I really like working and I feel that I am a better mother when I am. I think that time out of the house and organization of time it takes to balance the mom/work/fitness/wife chaos is more my style and makes me feel like "me." Spending this past summer home with Charlie I tried to really be present and appreciate my time with her- it was already different than expected because I was still pregnant. I had expected to have a baby in April and then roll into summer with Charlie. After our loss, that plan changed, and so did my expectation of summer- I didn't want to be busy like we were the summer before running from camps to sports, etc. I just wanted to enjoy my last summer with her as my only child. It is amazing the innocence, observatory nature, and honesty that children have and I will be so sad when that is ruined by life.

As school started, we got back into the hustle and bustle of life and three weeks after I went to work we brought a new bundle of joy home. So here I am again, a stay-at-home mom to an infant and a kindergartner. As I sit up at night feeding Mila I have some time to reflect. Looking back on my time with Charlie this summer, I realized I learned so much from my independent, smart, 5-year-old. Things I wanted to take into my future as a mother of two now, especially after I will be coming home stressed from work and exhausted from having an infant in the near future.

Right now I have to drive 30 minutes+ each way, twice a day, to take Charlie to school because I am home on maternity leave and I school-of-choice her to the district where I work. If we leave even a few minutes late we are stuck in horrendous traffic. I have an one month old baby screaming at me, usually, and there we are, stop-and-go all the way to school sometimes taking over an hour one way.
I think one of the most frustrating things I have experienced as a parent is trying to get out the door in the morning. Between getting Charlie out of bed at 5:45am to breakfast, getting dressed, hair done, and putting shoes on, while also getting a baby nursed and into the car, when I am exhausted from no sleep at night is a lot. My oldest child, like many others, has absolutely no hustle, literally none. I feel like we are always running late to get to work/school and being late is a pet peeve. I end up raising my voice and losing my temper trying to motivate her to get moving and once we are finally in the car I feel bad about how we left the house.

My ah-ha moment started when we were heading to school. On this particular day we were stuck in awful traffic, we were actually going to be late to school, and she made the comment I make so many times, 'I wish we lived in Rochester,' which is where her school is. I turned around and snapped at her that I wish we did too but we can't move right now, blah blah blah and the look on her face broke my heart. Her eyes got big as she was startled at the volume and tone of my voice and I could see the tears welling up in her eyes. That's when it hit me, I am blaming a child for us running late when I won't see her all day, and she likes being with me on the drive and innocently wants be a part of a conversation. I apologized and told her I loved her and she of course forgave me, but that was the moment I realized our joyous summer was taking a bad turn and I need to take a step back and appreciate my little girl and what she is innocently teaching me...

My behavior is reflected in her, whether that is good or bad. I love when she mimics me working out and that part of what I am teaching her by example is how to lead a healthy life and be a physically and mentally strong woman. However, I don't appreciate when she gets a tone with me. But where did that come from? Me. She honestly sounds exactly like me. The tone she has when I don't understand something right away is the same tone I have when I am sick of repeating or explaining myself. I shouldn't talk to her in a disrespectful way or raise my voice, regardless of if I am the parent. I have made a conscious effort to communicate with her the way I do with Matt, my husband. I don't use a tone or raise my voice with him when I am frustrated, annoyed, stressed, mad, etc. so I really shouldn't with her. It doesn't accomplish anything and creates a situation where I am correcting a behavior that I created.

I need to slow down and take a breath. Case-in-point, our walks with Annie (the dog) and Mila. Our walks together are more like stop-and-go traffic because we look at everything and play at every park in the neighborhood I need to take a deep breath and relax. It's ok that we don't "just walk" on our walk. She is enjoying spending time with me and exploring things about nature and playing. It won't be long before she doesn't want to walk with me and tell me about her day. When we are trying to rush out the door in the morning- slow down. It's ok, we are almost never actually late and it's really not a big deal in the grand scheme of life. That's not how I want to start my day or how I want her heading off to school- stressed.

I need to remember children are innocent and it is my job not to ruin that, there is plenty of time to be a grown up. This is particularly apparent with Charlie's father. She did not ask to be in the situation where I am not with her dad and she now changes houses all alone at age five. Although she doesn't know any different, it still takes a lot of maturity, adaptability and confidence on her part. As much as I want to say, "I don't care if that is allowed at his house it's not allowed here..." sometimes when she does something I don't like, I need to remember she is the navigating two homes with two different rules and two very different families and it is not something I should get upset with, or put on her. I can correct the behavior without criticizing the other household. She is allowed to love her dad even if I cannot stand him. She needs to feel loved and not yanked in two different directions trying to please people.

Do what you love and who cares what people think. Children are amazing at this. They dance and sing and wear what they want, they're happy and they like it. I can't tell you how many times Charlie has come downstairs all dressed up in something I would never pick out and I ask, "is that really what you are wearing today?" and she very happily says yes. Why at some point do we stop doing this? Why do we suddenly stop doing what we like because we are afraid of the judgement of others? I am guessing because middle school girls are mean :) But seriously, I need to remember it's okay to be confident in doing what makes me happy- like my Charlie dancing to Lady Gaga in her finest dress in the living room.

The more she grows the more I appreciate what a wonderful, smart, funny, loving child she is. Thank you for teaching me what's important in life my Charlie-girl.

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