Parenting · Single Mom

Making Friends with Batman

I was so excited about Christmas this year for my darling two year old.  I hoped that Santa would bring him trains and other nice toddler toys.  I knew he would enjoy seeing Ho Ho –he always does.  But there was something about this year that was even more exciting than the last two.

You see, he is nearing three –and with all the changes that entails.  His excitement is contagious.  He YIKES Ho Ho.

The thing that I did not expect–was how much he began to yike Batman. . . . and Spiderman. . . . and “All That.”  Sure, I knew that I was probably never going to get around the superhero faze.  (Looking back, I’m not sure why I ever even  wanted to).  The truth is, I’d hoped that I could keep my toddler into Elmo (who he yiked a month before he met Batman) and Dot Dog (otherwise known as Mickey Mouse) for a little bit longer.  I even bought him an early Christmas gift for good measure–Tickle Me Elmo.  I was certain he would LOVE it because we had just visited Elmo’s Castle and he told me how much he yiked Elmo.

But sometime between Elmo’s Castle and Christmas, my Massimo met Batman.  And when we visited Ho Ho for the first time, he asked for Batman, Spiderman, Batman’s House and “all that.”   We visited several Santa’s during the course of the Christmas season (Santa is Massimo’s homeboy), and each and every time he told Ho Ho the same thing.  There was no fighting it–no matter how much I tried.

Family members asked what he wanted:  my response was always–“well he wants Batman, but I’m not sure that Mommy is ready for Batman.”

Sometime after the second or third Santa, I realized that I was no match for Batman.  Batman was just too strong.  He is a superhero after all.

Trying to make the best of what I had lost–my toddler–who Yiked Elmo.  I began to embrace the Batman.  I began to realize that it was not necessarily a fighting super hero he wanted.   What he really wanted was action figures that he could play with in their “house,” much like a preschool girl wants a doll house–and there’s no cooler way to do that than with Batman.  I don’t understand Batman.  But I do understand dolls and doll houses.

On Christmas day, I could barely contain myself for him to see his Batman and Spiderman and “all that.”  He was so excited. Oh. My Doodness.  I think I was more excited though.

Christmas afternoon we ended up in the ER.  Luckily, we had Batman, Spiderman, and all that with us to keep us entertained while we waited.  Since Massimo is in a cast now, he’s had a lot of downtime.  Thank god for Batman.  He’s been playing with his superheroes and their houses for days.  And Mommy is really enjoying watching him.

Now, I don’t know what I’d do without Batman.

Love,

 

J

 

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Parenting

Elves

I love Christmastime.  I love the lights.  The joy.  The goodwill.  I love it even more through the eyes of my little guy.  He is SO excited.  Oh. MY. Goodness.

Everything about Christmas excites him.  Ho ho.  Baby Jesus.  Lights. Monsters. Trees.  Not to mention presents.

After we put up our tree, I wrapped a couple of gifts and put them under it right next to Massimo’s nativity play set.  Clearly, I didn’t think that part through.  As soon as he saw the presents, he ran to them saying:  “I so excited!  My presents!  Batman! Spiderman! All that!”

Uh oh.

I responded, very sweetly, “no baby, those aren’t for you and we can’t open presents until Ho Ho comes.”

And he wailed.  He cried and cried and didn’t understand.  His feelings were hurt because (1) those were not his presents–in fact none of the presents were his, and (2) I wouldn’t let him open them.

Oh the horror.

Then I made mistake number 2.  I left the room to attend to a biological need.  When I returned, I found Massimo and an unwrapped gift.

“Massimo,”  I said.  “That wasn’t for you.”

Again, he wailed.  He cried and cried and cried.  It was a great parenting moment.  I had sucked the joy of Christmas out of my two year old baby.

I also thought it was a teaching moment.  A moment to teach my two –almost three year old–a little bit about self control.

So, the next day–I wrapped more gifts.  Again, I put them under the tree next to his nativity set.  Again, he was confused.  He cried and wailed.  He wanted to open the new gift.  Which was either Batman or Batman’s house.  (Have I mentioned that my child wants Batman, Spiderman, Batman’s house, all that–and that up until right about now I’ve not been so sure about embracing the superhero theme at 2).

One thing quickly became clear, if I was going to teach him self control–I needed help.  And I needed help from someone Massimo loved and respected.

Luckily, we have our very own elf–Bobby Gi Gi.  It can be kind of a hassle trying to figure out new places to put him every nigh.  And, to be very honest, I can’t imagine that I’ll be able to remember to move him every night during Christmas until he no longer believes that Bobby is magical.  But for now, Bobby is magical.

So the next night, Bobby went to the North Pole and returned with a letter to Massimo from Ho Ho.  In the letter, Ho Ho asked Massimo not to open any more gifts until Mommy told him he could.  Ho Ho said he was busy working on Batman and Spiderman but if Massimo kept opening the gifts under the tree, he would have to give Batman and Spiderman to another little boy.

Massimo hasn’t opened any more gifts under the tree.

Thank you Bobby Gi Gi and Ho Ho.

Love,

J

 

 

Parenting · Working Mom

Riding with the Toddler

It seems to take much longer to get ready in the morning when I have to take Massimo to school.  However, I read somewhere that it takes, on average, two and a half extra minutes to get a toddler ready to go with you than it takes on your own.  Two and a half minutes–For just a few years.  Those are precious two and a half minutes.

Until this past April when my mom retired, I took Massimo to school about three or four times a week.  That made for both long mornings and long weeks.  When she retired, she started taking him into school.  While I’m super grateful for the help (and the shorter days and shorter weeks), I realized this morning how much I’ve been been missing out on.

This morning was the only day this week that I took Massimo to school.  Boy was it fun. Yes, I had to contend with a kind of grouchy child who did not want to go to the bathroom, change his diaper or get dressed.  I also had to feed him at 5:30 am (even though he is fed breakfast at school)–he wanted “hotcakes” and fries (lucky for him we had one of the two).

Then, instead of allowing me to load the car with the various paraphernalia that I needed, he insisted on coming with me and getting in the car –even though I wasn’t quite ready to leave.  I loaded him in the carseat in the dark (which is more fun than a barrel of monkeys)–and he was COLD and thirsty.  Please note, he was cold because I had put a sweater on him–which would have been warm enough if Mr. Patience would have let me run out to the car to turn the heat on.

Back in the house I went to get him a blanket and a bot bot (cup–for those of you who don’t speak toddler).   I came back out and warmed him up with the blanket.  As I was snuggling him tight with the blanket, he told me that he was scared of my shadow.  This is new.  My child isn’t scared of anything–let alone shadows.

Once I had him snugly in the carseat, I realized mommy had left her bot bot (a.k.a. coffee) in the house.  Can’t forget that.  I ran quickly back into the house and picked up my bot bot. And finally, we were off.

We chatted and sang the whole way to school.  He counted to ten.  We sang the ABC song, the Itsy Bitsy Spider, the Wheels on the Bus (he knows all the moves and noises), and maybe a few others that I’m missing.  He’s learning so much these days and his vocabulary is expanding a LOT.  The things he says. . . . “OH MY DOODNESS”–is his new phrase and there is absolutely nothing cuter in my life right now.

When we arrived at Debbie’s house (his teacher is Debbie–so he calls daycare her house), we had to take the blanket with us because he was COLD….brrrr he said.  I realized then that I’d packed everything but the kitchen sink in the car this morning. . . . and his cookies we baked last night for school.

Love,

 

J

 

Parenting · Wellness

Are you happy Mommy? Are you happy?

You can’t pour from an empty cup.  Remember to take care of yourself first.

There are very few things that have more impact on my child than my own emotional well-being.

Massimo often asks me if I’m happy.  I usually respond, “of course, baby you’re with me.”  He smiles.

The other day, I changed it up a bit.  He ran away from me in the parking lot at school.  It wasn’t a very busy parking lot–no one else was there. But that’s not really the point.  He ran away and pretended it was a game and he wouldn’t come back.  I’m sure that some parent somewhere would have just the antidote to that situation.  But I didn’t.  I chased him until I could grab his hand and then swiftly walked him back to my car.

I didn’t say a word to him.

As we reached the car, he said “are you happy mommy, are you happy?”  In the sweet little voice that only he has.

I didn’t respond.

I put him in his car seat.  I got into the driver side and started to drive away.

Again, “are you happy mommy?  are you happy?”

Finally, I said “No, I’m not happy.  You ran away from me in a parking lot and you did not come back.  You could have gotten hurt very bad.  And that would have made Mommy very sad.  So, no, Mommy is not happy right now.”

He promptly exploded into a terrible cry.  I didn’t have to chastise him.  I didn’t have to really do all that much except tell him that I wasn’t happy–and he was immediately upset.

Now, I’m not certain that he will change his behavior the next time.  He may.  He may not.  I don’t want to set my expectations all that high.

The point is though, that children–even two-year old self-absorbed ones–want their parents to be happy.  My child wants that so much–that when I tell him I’m not–he cries.

It is impossible to be happy all time.  Sometimes life gets in the way of happiness.  Sometimes we just have a bad day, or week, or month, or year.

But here’s the thing–I don’t think that happiness is a place.  It is more of a state of mind.  In order to get to that state of mind, I often employ a variety of techniques.

Here are my tried and true methods of finding a little place of happiness (in no particular order):

(1) A gratitude journal.  Sit down on a regular basis and write down three things that you are grateful for.  When I focus on the things I have to be grateful for, I become less focused on the things that I am unhappy about.  I employ this with Massimo every night–I ask him what he is grateful for.

(2)  Exercise.  It increases my endorphins and my sense of well-being.  It also helps quiet my mind.  I find yoga particularly helpful–an hour and half in a hot room will make me forget all of my troubles.  But any form of exercise will do.  Just find your flow.

(3) Pray.  I’m not the most religious person or “best” the Christian you will ever meet.  Of that much, I’m certain.  I’m also certain of God’s grace.   I see it everyday in my son and  I experience it in nature.

(4) Meditation.  According to a Zen proverb, “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”  Meditation is amazing.  It gives me time to just sit still–time to release all of the negatives and just focus on the moment.  It may not work for you, if it doesn’t–just try siting still for five minutes–without interruption.

(5) Journaling.  I find if I write down what’s on my mind, it is easier for me to let it go.  If I can let it go, it no longer consumes me.

(6) Nature.  Being outside in nature has a calming effect.  It can be anywhere–somewhere fancy on an exotic trip.  Or at the local park.  Being outside in nature makes me realize that I’m part of a bigger universe–that any problems that I face are just hiccups along the way.

(7)  Reaching out to someone for help.  This can be a therapist or a friend.  It is just helpful to have someone else to talk about my worries with.   This is why social networks (not necessarily online social networks) are very important to single parents.

(8)  Cry.  If all else fails, I go for a drive and cry.  I cry big crocodile tears.  Or if I am feeling saucy I wait until Massimo is in bed, have a glass of wine and cry those same big crocodile tears.  Either way, when I’m done feeling sorry for myself, I pull up my big girl pants and move forward because I’ve got things to do.

I think it is even more critical to recognize that children are not the person to talk about your worries with.  Children rely on their parents to take care of them and their parents’ emotional well-being is important to them.  They do not need to know their parents’ problems or be their parents’ therapist.  They are children–and if there is one time that life should be all about rainbows and butterflies–it is childhood.

Of course, basics are important.  Sustenance.  A home.  Heat.  Food.  But once those basics are met, a parent’s own well-being seems to be the next most important thing.  If the parent’s emotional needs are met, they are better able to meet the needs–both emotional and physical– of their children.

If you have other methods, please share!  If you found this post helpful or inspiring, please like, comment and share.

Love,

 

J

 

Parenting · Single Mom

The Child is Just Fine, Thank You Very Much.

Before you judge me, make sure your life is perfect.–Clint Eastwood

Older women can utter the most judgmental words ever spoken to younger women.  Especially, when it comes to parenting, lifestyle choices, and appearances.

It is possible that other demographics (older men, younger women, and younger men) harbor the same thoughts but they do not dare speak them aloud.

Older women do not care.  They seem to think that they can–indeed that it is their God given obligation to –tell younger women exactly what they think.  No holds barred.  I have considered that maybe I’m not being fair here.  I could be too quick to stereotype.  We all make judgments based on our own personal experiences–and that’s what I’m doing here.  I’ll explain.

Two years ago, I traveled to a conference for work and took 3 month old Massimo.  During the conference, I attended–with Massimo in tow–a BBQ held at the home of one of the “leaders” of our organization.  Massimo wasn’t the only baby there–in fact–another attorney and her husband attended with their baby who was several months older than Massimo.

Oh, how they swooned.  Massimo was a very handsome baby.  We compared the two babies–their size.  Massimo was larger even though younger–which (by the way) meant exactly nothing.  Everything was going pretty well.  Massimo was well-behaved and there were no major accidents. . . . . at least until one of the older female “leaders” of our organization accidentally opened her mouth.

She asked me about my husband.  I told her I wasn’t married.  Although I’m sure it was quite obvious to her that the fact that I had no husband was not all that important to me–it was to her– and she continued to pry.

“Well, what about his father? Where is he?”

“He isn’t around,”  I responded and then quickly tried to change the subject.  Having none of it, she persisted.

“Well, that’s not good for the baby!” Awkward silent moment.  I walked away.

To be fair, I am not sure she would characterize her interaction with me as an accident.

I was at a work function, with a “leader” of my organization–who by the way–I had never met until that  moment.  Of course, her opinion of my life did not matter to me but no mother –particularly a new mother–wants ANYONE to tell her that the choices that she makes aren’t “good for the baby.”

Here’s the thing, this lady literally had no business telling me what her opinion of my life choices were.  They were quite simply none of her business.  But she hit a nerve.

The story line that single parenting (particularly single motherhood) is bad for children is a time-honored tale.  “Single mothers” have their own demographic–beside which appears higher rates of poverty, school failure, and other “problems” with the children as they grow up.  Indeed, the children of single mothers are destined to fail.  At least that’s what we’ve been told.

In fact, that story is not exactly true–and it does not have to be.

Mathilde Brewaeys from VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam conducted a study comparing the well-being of children growing up in single-mother-by-choice and heterosexual two-parent families and found no differences in terms of parent-child relationship or child development.

According to her, “the assumption that growing up in a family without a father is not good for the child is based mainly on research into children whose parents are divorced and who thus have experienced parental conflict.”  Ms. Brewaeys explained “however, it seems likely that any negative influence on child development depends more on a troubled parent-child relationship and not on the absence of a father. Single-mothers-by-choice knowingly make the decision to raise their child alone, in contrast to unintended single mothers. Little research has been done on the specific features of these single-mothers-by-choice families and whether there are differences between them and heterosexual two-parent families in terms of parent-child relationship, parental social support and well-being of the children.”

The study was a comparison of the well-being of children between 18 months and 6 years old.  69 of the children were raised by women who had knowingly chosen to raise their child alone and 59 were raised by mothers from heterosexual two-parent families.

Based on the results of the study, Ms. Brewaeys reported that children growing up with single-mothers-by-choice appeared to enjoy a similar parent-child relationship as those in heterosexual two-parent families.  She also said “a strong social network is of crucial importance.”

I am certain that she’s right about this last point.  It is hard enough being a parent.  Its super stressful to know that you are entirely responsible for the well-being of another human.  That’s why a support network is important.  It is allows a single mom (or dad) to have someone to reach to for help.  It also allows the single parent an opportunity to have conversations and participate in activities apart from their children.

Of course, it is always possible that some of the choices that I make not be “good for the baby.”  But, I think it’s that way with any parent–married or single.  We all try to make the best choices we can make and make those decisions based on enough information.  Inevitably, we will, on occasion, make bad ones but that’s all a part of life–and they are our choices.  Not anyone else’s.

At the end of the day, I know that the child is going to be just fine and I have to hope that whatever bad choices that I make will be just enough to make him an interesting adult.  If you found this post helpful or inspiring, please be sure to like, comment and share.

Love,

 

J

 

#singlemombychoice #singleparenting #singlemom

Parenting · Wellness

Present Moment Awareness: Life with a Two Year Old & Technological Distractions

“Can you hold me mama?”

My sweet little boy said as I was putting him to sleep tonight.  My Massimo likes for me to put him to sleep in my bed.  I often look for distractions while I’m waiting for him to rest.  Sometimes, I also issue threats for him to stop squirming and lay still.

While I was waiting tonight (as is often the case), instead of cuddling with this moving little monster, I scrolled through my social media.  Tonight, he reminded me what was important.

“Of course I’ll hold you sweet baby.”

It isn’t only at bedtime that my darling has had to remind me to put away the distractions and focus on the present.

“No hello Mommy! No hello,” removing the gadget from my hand to make clear that it is  time for me to play.

Over the past week or so, Massimo went from a toddler who played by himself most of the time to nearly a preschooler starving for attention and a playmate.  This has been a huge shift for me.

Here’s why:  when he played by himself, I could do whatever I wanted while he was playing.  I could scroll through social media mindlessly.  I could watch television.  I could read a book.  I could do house work.  I could cook.

I could do all those things–yet– I would still be here if he needed.  And I’d feel like I was still spending time with him.  But I wasn’t really.  I was often somewhere else.

This past week, he actually has wanted me to play with him–which required me to focus on the present–not whatever distraction I’m was favoring at the time.

His favorite toy of the moment is a cash register and the food that he likes to sell to me. “What you want?  What you want?  What you want mommy?  What you want?”  He says repeatedly.

He probably would repeat himself anyway because that’s just what he does right now. But I find myself so distracted (mostly with social media) that he will ask me over and over until  I wake up and realize that this person who I made, the one who I adore, just wants actual interaction.  I usually do too.

Here’s to putting up that “hello” and focusing on what’s in front of me because nothing in that hello is half as entertaining or remotely as fulfilling as focusing on the present with Massimo.

Parenting

Attachment Theory vs. Cry it Out (Empirical Evidence)

For every new parent, two things soon become evident:  (1) everyone has an opinion about EVERYTHING; and (2) they all LOVE to offer their advice.   I too have plenty of opinions but I’m not here to tell anyone how they should do this or that.  Let me be honest, I give advice ALL DAY LONG.   But that’s not the purpose of this blog.  We all try our best to do the right thing.  We don’t need anyone telling us how we should do something to make us worry that we didn’t do it right to begin with.   This entry will provide just a little bit of information about conflicting schools of thought involving a topic near and dear to my heart and my journey to understanding it all.   Let me just tell you, the STRUGGLE  between picking my baby up and letting him cry it out was REAL.  Tears were shed…LOTS of them.  Mostly by me.

At my little guy’s one year check up, the nurse asked me to fill out a questionnaire.   The purpose of the questionaire (like the ones they use at all of his other checkups), was to allow me to provide information to help the doctor assess my little guy’s progress.  Is it me or do they start REAL early with assessing whether or not a new tiny human is living up to everyone else’s expectations?  I answered the questions truthfully, without thinking that my perfect child wasn’t meeting everyone else’s expectations or that my choices were anything but the right ones.

One of the questions was “is your child sleeping through the night??” Well, umm. No.  He wakes up every night around the same time.  I put him in bed with me and he goes back to sleep.

Apparently, my answer was the wrong one and my choice to pick him up was also wrong.  When the doctor entered the room, he physically assessed my precious one then told me that he should certainly be sleeping through the night by then.   According to Dr. Know It All (who I had before never met and have since never seen), I should be making my angel cry it out because if I didn’t make him go back to sleep on his own at that time, he would have insomnia for the rest of his life!!!!  Wow.  And here I am.  Minding my own business.  TRYING TRYING TRYING to make the right choices for my little guy and I am actually ruining his sleep for the REST OF HIS LIFE!!!

I listened to the doctor, tried to understand his point of view, and even tried to let my precious boy cry it out a few times. But I couldn’t.  First, the crying was RELENTLESS.  Second, I didn’t have the heart to hear him that upset.  Third–and MOST important–I needed to go back to sleep.  According to Dr. Know It All, my child will forever have insomnia because I never made him go back to sleep on his own.

More recently,  I had an amazing opportunity to take a class taught by Dr. Robert Mauer, the Director of Behavioral Science at the University of Washington.  The class was on Negotiations but, as you can imagine with a behavioral scientist teaching the class,  it was heavily based in psychology.  Dr. Mauer studies excellence and writes about Mastering Fear to achieve excellence.  His website is The Science of Excellence and his books are fantastic.

In this Negotiations class–of all places– I learned a lot about attachment theory and crying it out.  I probably should have learned a lot of this in college phycology but better late than never.  Dr. Mauer discussed how all animals have certain reactions to fear–including humans.  This is because all animal have similar brain functions.  Raw stimuli that are associated with fear arrive at the place in the brain called the amygdala, which passes a danger signal along to the hypothalamus, which, dictates the body’s autonomic nervous system, and trips the fight-or-flight wire.  Each animal’s fight-or-flight response may be different.

After discussing the amygdala and fight or flight response in animals, Dr. Mauer showed us videos of Harlow’s Monkeys–experiments, which would be considered inhumane in today’s society.  Dr. Mauer’s purpose of showing us the videos was so that we would begin to understand that humans (because of our close relation to primates) have similar reactions to fear as the monkeys.  If you haven’t seen the videos, I encourage you to google Harlow’s Monkeys and watch them on YouTube.  They will change your life.  Or at least maybe your idea of the importance of human connection.

In one of the experiments, a monkey is offered the choice between sustenance and affection.  The monkey must eat to survive but is reluctant to leave its cloth mommy for food–when it does–it is only long enough to eat– then that frightened monkey goes right back to cuddle with its cloth mommy.

Dr. Mauer opined that the human need for attachment is similar to the monkey’s–food keeps us alive–but affection keeps us sane.  In other words, the human reaction to fear is to REACH for someone–just like the frightened monkey in his cage reached out to the only mommy he’s ever known.

If I had seen the video two years ago, I’m pretty sure that I would have been more confident in my decision to pick my little one up when his doctor told me to let him “Cry it Out.”  After class, I told Dr. Mauer that I have a two-year old and asked him if he could explain the “Cry it Out” theory based on his research and the monkey experiments.   Dr. Mauer said that–in his practice– he does not advise parents to let babies cry it out.  He also encouraged me to watch the video for the Happiest Toddler on the Block.

In the end, the important thing is not whether you let your baby “Cry it Out” or whether you pick him up.  The only important thing is that you do what works for you.  Only you know your baby, your own needs, and what best fits into your life.

 

Love,

 

J